Reopening Lord High School at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

Youth at OYA benefit most from in-person teaching. Careful planning has gone into making sure everyone stays safe.

UPDATE July 23: Yesterday, the governor issued a new requirement that youth age 5 and up must wear masks when in indoor spaces where they cannot maintain physical distance. We are seeking guidance from the Oregon Health Authority.

Also, see below for updated information about the optimal approach to handling air flow and climate inside the building.

UPDATE July 21: The opening date for Lord High School has been moved to Thursday, July 23.

On Monday, July 20, OYA youth will begin receiving in-person instruction at Lord High School. Since the pandemic began, youth have not been in a classroom. Instead, they have been participating in distance learning on their living units, which is not adequate for many youth in this population.

We believe it is imperative that youth in all OYA facilities receive some in-person instruction, and that it can be done safely. We have assisted the Oregon Department of Education and the Willamette Educational Service District (WESD) in their work to develop a reopening plan that is safe for everyone.

That plan was reviewed by the Oregon Health Authority. OHA supported the plan to open.


  • The Willamette Educational Service District (WESD) contracts with the Oregon Department of Education to operate Lord High School.
  • WESD staff, including Lord High School teachers and staff, consulted with OYA staff to develop a plan designed to keep staff and youth safe. As noted above, OHA supported the plan.
  • You can see the “operational blueprint” WESD created for Lord High School here:
  • Features of the plan include reducing class sizes to eight or fewer students, rearranging class schedules to minimize in-class time, providing additional personal protective equipment, social distancing requirements, temperature checks, increased cleaning, and posted signs.

Why not have the youth do distance learning only?

  • Education is a critical part of treatment and rehabilitation for youth in our care. In fact, research has shown that incarcerated people who participate in educational programs while in custody are 43 percent less likely to be arrested for another crime than those who do  not.
  • Youth who come into OYA custody are often significantly behind their peers in school. Many have a demonstrated history of not being successful in a traditional classroom and require extra support. Distance learning is not a realistic model for optimal educational outcomes (or even moderately positive outcomes) for this population. In-person support from teachers is extra important to helping them be successful. 
  • Furthermore, distance learning inside a youth correctional facility presents unique challenges. For security reasons, youth in our facilities do not have direct access to the internet. To provide distance learning, youth need access to a computer that connect to a special Wi-Fi system with significant additional security protocols, and we don’t have the infrastructure to provide computers with that access to every youth.
  • Finally, distance learning doesn’t significantly reduce the risk of exposure for youth.
    • All adults who enter our facilities are screened for symptoms and have their temperature checked. They are also required to wear masks. This applies to teachers as well as OYA staff.
    • Also, distance learning inside our facilities doesn’t look like it does in the community. OYA staff must be physically present to support youth while they do their classwork. This means that an adult will be working in-person with OYA youth during class time regardless of how instruction is delivered.

How will you keep everyone safe?

  • We already have many protocols in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.
  • The facility is a temporary home for youth. However, unlike youth living at home in the community, youth at MacLaren are not free to mingle with others. At MacLaren, which is at baseline, living units do not mingle with each other. So youth are much less likely to be exposed to the virus through casual contact.
  • The number of adults entering the facility has been strictly limited to staff and contractors, including teachers.
  • Adults who enter the facility must:
    • Be screened for symptoms at entry and have their temperature taken.
    • Wear masks at all times unless they are outside and more than six feet from others. Teachers would be required to wear masks when working with youth.
  • New youth coming into the facility are held in an intake unit for 14 days, so that we are confident no new COVID cases enter the facility through a youth.  None have.
  • Youth are quarantined if they are symptomatic, test positive, or are identified as having had close contact with someone who tested positive. They would not be attending school.
  • Youth attending class will be visually checked for symptoms before arrival and required to maintain appropriate physical distance of six feet from others. They are provided with face coverings and will be asked to wear them. We have had good compliance in those times youth needed to wear a face covering.
  • The school schedule has been altered to make class sizes smaller. Only half the school population will be in the school at one time.
    • Living units are divided into two teams, ranging from four to eight youth in each team. Teams come to school every other day. Classrooms are disinfected between classes.
    • Youth on the living unit will receive distance learning, be included through Zoom, or provided coursework by the teacher.
    • No more than eight students will be in a class at one time, allowing for one OYA staff person and one teacher. This will allow enough space to maintain appropriate physical distance.
    • UPDATED July 20, 2020: Students will remain in the same classroom for most classes. This will reduce movement within the school and lessen the need to clean.
      • Math, physical education, and computer lab are the only classes that will require a move from room to room. The rooms will be cleaned between class changes.
      • Entry, exit, and line moves have all been planned-for to ensure youth do not mingle during movement to or from the building, or between classes. Signs and floor markings help reinforce the need for distance.
  • UPDATE July 20, 2020: Medically vulnerable youth will be offered alternative education on their living unit.

I’ve heard that many of the windows at Lord High School can’t be opened to improve air flow. Is this true?

It is true that many windows at Lord High School are fastened shut. In normal times, this is to ensure that open windows do not negatively affect the efficiency and operation of the HVAC system. However, we will have our physical plant staff make sure as many of these windows can be opened as possible to give more opportunities for air flow.

UPDATE July 23, 2020. OYA’s physical plant staff verified that all windows that can physically be opened can be.

However, according to the manager of OYA’s Physical Plant Operations, opening windows at Lord High School is not the best way to ensure safe air flow and comfortable classrooms. The recommended approach, consistent with state and professional guidance, is to keep the classroom windows closed and use the HVAC system. The HVAC is now configured to bring in more filtered fresh air to help maximize fresh air exchanges while maintaining the effectiveness of the system. 

  • Opening the classroom windows during the summer will bring hot, unconditioned air into the space.  The hot air will overload the HVAC system and possibly damage it by causing the coils to freeze.
  • Simply turning off the HVAC system would make classrooms hot and uncomfortable — not a good learning environment.
  • Open windows by themselves will not provide as much ventilation, filtering, and air exchange as the HVAC will provide. The HVAC system provides constant air flow and filters the outdoor air, which also removes outdoor air contaminants. 
  • Using the HVAC system and keeping the windows closed allows us to find the right balance of outside air and conditioned air to keep the classrooms a comfortable temperature. Improved HVAC filters have been installed as recommended to remove air contaminants, bacteria, mold, and virus particles from the air.

Guidance provided by The Oregon Department of Administrative Services, Oregon Health Authority, and by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends a variety of approaches. In our case, using the building’s HVAC system for ventilation and air filtration is the optimum method.

  1. […] In July, schools at OYA facilities began to reopen. We worked with the Oregon Department of Education and assisted local school districts in creating reopening plans that are safe for staff and youth. As of July 20, 2020, all of our facilities are in Phase 2 counties except MacLaren. Learn more about the plan to safely reopen Lord High School at MacLaren here.  […]

  2. […] In July, schools at OYA facilities began to reopen. We worked with the Oregon Department of Education and assisted local school districts in creating reopening plans that are safe for staff and youth. As of July 20, 2020, all of our facilities are in Phase 2 counties except MacLaren. Learn more about the plan to safely reopen Lord High School at MacLaren here.  […]

  3. […] can read about the precautions we’re taking at Lord High School on our […]

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