COVID-19 Pandemic Information


For the latest correspondence about COVID-19, please see our email newsletter archives.


UPDATE: Aug 19, 2021


As the summer comes to a close we are busy preparing the school for our staff and students safe return to In-Person learning.  We understand this is a time full of uncertainty and worry as it relates to health and safety. 

As we plan for the 2021-22 school year it is important to remember:


  • We will be living with the virus until there is widespread immunity
  • COVID -19 continues to change with each new variant; our knowledge of mitigation efforts grows over time. For these reasons the guidance we receive for responding  to COVID-19 will also change.
  • Currently the best tools to protect individuals are vaccination for those eligible, physical distancing, face coverings, ventilation and airflow, hygiene and staying home if ill or exposed to someone with COVID 19.
  • Opportunity for transmission decreases with each mitigation/layered prevention effort that is implemented.


The latest guidance from the CDC is as follows:

Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. (CDC)

We will be implementing the following layered prevention protocols against COVID-19:


Student and Staff Health and Well-being 

  • Cottonwood will devote days and time at the beginning of the year for students and staff to connect and build relationships in and out of the classroom
  • Provide increased opportunities for art, outside play, and movement.
  • Provide outdoor eating spaces for all students.


PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Oregon is placing a priority on ensuring that every student is able to attend school in-person for the entire school year. The state of Oregon recognizes in guidance that In-Person school is a congregate setting where COVID-19 can spread easily if precautions are not taken. Universal and correct use of face coverings keeps students learning in-person. ODE, OHA, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all agree that returning to full-time, in-person learning is best for our children. 

Mask wearing will be mandatory for all students, staff and visitors. Staff and students will remain masked both inside and outside. We have many extra facemasks available for students and staff when they are forgotten or damaged.. We have also purchased face shields for  adults to be used in addition to masks.


Daily Health Screening

We are working on a system that would require all families to complete an online health screen BEFORE sending their child to school.  Look for more details to come. Teachers and assistants will also conduct a visual health screening of each child daily.  


Students who become ill at school 

Students who become sick at school will go to a designated isolation area.  Office staff will tend to the student, take their temperature, make sure they are comfortable and call parents to pick up. If a student is experiencing COVID – like symptoms, AND has a consent form on file, they will be offered the Binax Rapid Antigen test.  Results will be sent home with the student. There will be a  designated space to appropriately supervise and adequately isolate a sick or injured student.  


Physical Distancing

Cottonwood will support physical distancing in daily activities and instruction.  Students will maintain 3 feet distance between one another whenever possible.  


Ventilation and Airflow

Ventilation is  a primary tool to reduce viral spread indoors.  The following COVID prevention measures have been implemented


  • Ventilation systems have been serviced and will be maintained quarterly by Jacobs HVAC. Filters have been replaced with the highest filtration rates that are compatible with our system.
  • 60% outside air will move through the system
  • Air scrubbers will be placed in shared areas (basement, office and great room) and all classrooms. Doors to the outside will be open as much as possible, and before and after school for airing out.


Staff Vaccinations

All of our teachers and staff completed their vaccinations last Spring when educators became eligible for the vaccine. Cottonwood will require all staff to be vaccinated per Governor Brown’s mandate.


On site COVID Testing (more to come on all testing)

To further mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Oregon’s K-12 schools, OHA will support three opt-in COVID-19 testing programs available to all public and private schools in Oregon. When used alongside other mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, face coverings and physical distancing, testing offers an additional layer of protection to help keep kids in school and identify cases of COVID-19 before they cause outbreaks. Cottonwood plans to participate in all three.


  • Diagnostic Testing for K-12 Students and Staff


Our team has been trained on the protocol and procedures for testing students and staff who display symptoms of Covd-19.  No child will be offered a Covid test without the consent of a parent or guardian. Testing will help to quickly identify Covid-19 cases at Cottonwood, interrupt viral spread through classrooms, reduce the risk for students and may be used to shorten the length of quarantine for exposed individuals who test negative.


  • Screening Testing for K-12 Students


In partnership with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and OHSU, Cottonwood has opted into the K-12 Return to School COVID-19 Screening Testing initiative. This testing initiative allows all students the opportunity for weekly asymptomatic testing. Participation will be voluntary, and schools and families can opt-out at any time. Participation in the program and all results are confidential, however, positive COVID-19 results must be reported to the local public health authority for case investigation and contact tracing.

This testing will be a saliva test likely collected at home and sent to school to be picked up that day by OHSU and with results returned 24 hours later. 


  • Screening Testing for K-12 Teachers/Staff


Due to the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant and the more frequent occurrence of asymptomatic breakthrough cases we are offering this program to all staff regardless of vaccination status. This program offers free at-home weekly screening testing by mail to any unvaccinated public or private K-12 teacher or staff member, including volunteers. We have been informed that vaccination status will not be verified and all interested K-12 teachers and staff are welcome to enroll. 


Responding to COVID-19 Cases or Outbreaks

When staff and students show symptoms of being ill: if the student or staff member feels ill prior to coming to school, they should stay home and call the school. If a student or staff member becomes ill at school, we will have a designated location to separate people who have symptoms of COVID-19 from people who are not sick. Families will be called to pick up sick children. If they are showing Covid symptoms and Cottonwood has permission a diagnostic test will be administered.

When a staff member or a student tests positive for COVID-19: Cottonwood will work with our local public health authority to take next steps. This will include communicating to our school community and contacting those who may have been exposed. ODE Exclusion Summary Guidance for K-12. 

CDC guidance states that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or get tested after an exposure to someone with COVID-19.  We will be making decisions about quarantining on a case by case basis in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority.


Resiliency Opening Plan 

It is important to remember that we work closely with ODE, state superintendents, Portland charter school leadership and the local health authority when making decisions around our Resiliency Opening Plan. This plan will be posted no later than August 27th on the Cottonwood website.  We will continue throughout the school year to send out additional information in regards to changes and or updates to our plan.


Before & Aftercare 

We are excited to have before and aftercare returning to Cottonwood for the 2021/22 school year. An email went out last week to families and enrollment has begun. Sadly, due to unforeseen Covid-related complications, the state is experiencing a backlog in providing background checks and licenses to many childcare providers in our area.  As a result, childcare at Cottonwood will be delayed no later than October 4th.



Our playground will be open to students this year.  As we have not had tear gas use outside of our fences this summer, our industrial hygienist has cleared it for play. Out of an abundance of caution, we are cleaning all the hard surfaces of our playground and removing and replacing the top layers of sand and wood chips with new material to be ready for our children to enjoy. We will continue to monitor the protests and any ensuing tear gas use and will have a written protocol provided to us by Forensic Analytical before September 1 to address tear gas and munition use during the school year.



Classrooms have been rearranged again and new furniture purchased to allow for 3 feet of social distancing when possible.


Outdoor Cafeteria

We have moved our staff parking to leased parking at The Old Spaghetti Factory. This has allowed us to create a covered outdoor eating area for lunch time.  We are also pursuing the possibility of other nearby spaces for outdoor eating and outdoor classrooms.


Supplies/ Yearly Contributions

At Cottonwood we do not ask you to provide supplies directly to the school. We have found it to be more cost effective and sustainable for us to ask for contributions and then buy in bulk. We also ask families to contribute to the cost of guest speakers and fieldwork. These two contributions can be made via a sliding scale. More information can be found on our website HERE.  Students will have individual supplies for things that are frequently used.  Other items such as games and manipulatives may be shared, but with frequent hand sanitizing.




UPDATE: March 3rd, 2021


Dear Families,


This morning, Governor Brown published Executive Order 21-06, which orders public school districts and charter schools to offer fully On-site or Hybrid in-person instruction. The Order continues the requirement of all schools (public and private) to comply with guidance issued by ODE and OHA, including the health and safety protocols outlined in  Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.


ODE will release updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance late Monday or early Tuesday of next week, with additional updates to supplemental guidance following later in the week.


Needless to say this is a tight timeline to open and a slow roll out for receiving the much needed updated guidance. We have been in meetings all week with ODE, superintendents around the state and charter leadership. Cottonwood is prepared and ready to move forward and pivot as called for.


I would like to begin by addressing the safety concerns of our playground and facility due to chemical munitions being used regularly during ICE protests next door. As many of you know on February 1st I wrote a letter to ICE, requesting DHS/ICE to immediately commit to stopping all spraying/release of tear gas or chemical munitions in our neighborhood. Since doing so we have implemented a pressure campaign, reached out and aligned with neighbors in the South Waterfront and broader community and brought awareness to the concern through local news, social media, phone calls and letter writing. In response, others have written letters of support and in alliance: Senators Wyden and Merkley, State Representatives Bonamici and Bloomenauer, Commissioner Sharon Meieran, State Representative Lisa Reynolds and State Senator Ginny Burdick, Chief Executive officer of REACH Daniel Valliere and more. This week we have heard of stirrings that ICE/DHS is working to respond to our letters. We appreciate all the efforts to advocate for the school and encourage each of you to continue making phone calls and getting the word out.


Today we signed a contract with a certified industrial hygienist from Forensic Analytical Consulting Services. They will manage the project of further evaluating potential contamination of the school campus with residues from chemical crowd-control munitions used on or near the school property, develop corrective actions, as needed, to protect the health and safety of our students, staff and community and develop a crowd-control munitions response plan in case of future impacts to the campus. The project will conclude with a town hall meeting for our community presented by the senior certified industrial hygienist from Forensic Analytical.


We hope to have preliminary answers and a professionally cleaned interior by March 26th and a completed report the week of April 5th. We are unsure if the playground will be usable this year. The process of assuring a clean and safe school campus due to chemical crowd-control munitions in our neighborhood will supersede the Governor’s order to open K-5 by March 29th. This schedule change has been approved by the Oregon Department of Education. It is our intention to have staff back in the building on March 29th for training and preparation, begin meeting with children off site the week of April 5th, and begin our Hybrid model on site the week of April 12th.


In light of Governor Brown’s recent executive order requiring schools to offer in-person learning to all and feedback from both staff and families, we are excited to share our newly revised hybrid instruction model. This model, developed in response to our survey, allows for 90% of our school children to participate in some form of in-person school activity that feels safe to them! In addition we are looking forward to the opportunity to have in-person time on site with students whose parents choose to participate in the hybrid model.


As described above, we cannot open our building to students until any needed contamination cleanup is completed.  Instead of returning to school as planned on March 30th, we will be using that week to prepare our building, train staff on Covid protocols  and plan for the change in instructional model while we wait for the building contamination report.  We will not be extending the school year to make up these days but rather will add back two days that were previously no school days- April 9th and May 7th.



Start Dates


  • Week of March 29th- No school for students while we await the final results of the building contamination report and teachers plan a shift to hybrid instruction.
  • Week of April 5th- All grades remain in distance learning with the addition of social meet ups at the park.  Kinder and new student building tours will be offered during this week as long as the building is cleared for students.
  • Week of April 12th- Hybrid on-site learning begins at all grades, and outdoor social meetups continue.


In our new model,  mornings and Wednesdays will remain online and be the same for all students regardless of which schedule you choose.



K-8 Morning Schedule and Wednesdays for all students, Hybrid or Distance Learning. – Mornings and Wednesdays will remain fully online, similar to the current distance learning, with some shifts in small group times.



What outdoor education options are available?


  • Weekly meetups are available in partnership with Portland Parks.
  • K-5 Park Meetups Weekly teacher-led outdoor education meet-ups, Thursday (K-5) 1-3:15.
  • 6-8 Park Meetups Weekly teacher-led outdoor education meet-ups, Fridays from 9-1.



Why this model?


We believe this model provides the most equitable access to core academic instruction for all students, provides the most consistency for students and is more sustainable for teachers. Here are the main reasons:


  • Students, overall, have gotten the hang of participating in academic classes in the mornings on Zoom, so continuing to provide their core academic classes through distance learning keeps that instruction consistent for all students.
  • Our survey results indicated that 73% of our families were satisfied with remaining in CDL. Only 27% of our families preferred a hybrid model.
  • When looking at our BIPOC, Special Ed. and Free and Reduced Lunch students, their results either agreed with the community as a whole or leaned more strongly toward a distance learning model, adding further support to a model with a stronger distance learning piece.
  • This model provides outdoor park meetups for all grades which was a preferred way of gathering safely in person for over 90% of students.
  • This model gives us flexibility to provide additional support beyond these baseline amounts for students who may need additional time on-site.
  • This model eliminates the need for live streaming instruction, an approach that was not favored by our teachers or many families and requires a learning curve that doesn’t make sense with the small amount of time left in the school year.


Some additional details:


Health/Safety Protocols: CSCS will strictly adhere to the health/safety protocols outlined in the state’s Ready School Safe Learners guidance, including visual symptom screening  on entry for students, daily symptom reporting for all staff, hand hygiene, masks for everyone and contact tracing where needed.


  • All staff and students will be required to wear masks that cover mouths and noses at all times, even when outside.
  • All protocols will be posted on the school website.
  • Students who become symptomatic or report feeling unwell at school will be monitored in a separate health room and parents will need to pick them up within the hour.
  • Teachers will spend time with students prior to the start of hybrid reviewing safety practices.
  • All classrooms will be equipped with air purifiers  See FAQ for more details on ventilation.


We are all so excited to be together again!


Amanda & Susan


Communications from The Cottonwood School



For more archived communications, please see our Newsletter Archive.


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