2 area schools return to distance learning over COVID cases

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Distance learning set for September 20-24

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After less than a month of in-person instruction, some schools in the area are already having to backtrack to distance learning.

Reynolds High School in Troutdale and John Wetten Elementary in Gladstone will both return to a week-long distance learning period starting Monday. Both schools started up the year with in-person learning the week of September 6.

According to a spokesperson with the Gladstone School District, the positive case at John Wetten Elementary came from one staff member — not any student. However, the district described the exposure as widespread, being that the staff member is routinely near up to 175 students each day.

“Because of the nature of their role, they’re in contact everyday with about 175 different students across the school all grade levels,” said Leslie Robinette, the communications coordinator with the Gladstone School District. “Because of that we felt the need to quarantine.”

Asked if that person’s role may change, Robinette said the school is “considering all the options right now.”

Gladstone is also upgrading their ventilation systems in all their schools to hospital-quality air filtration.

Over at Reynolds, the switch comes after a “large number of students” were forced to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, according to an announcement on the school’s website. Three Reynolds High School students tested positive for COVID, exposing hundreds of classmates.

The school says as more students have to quarantine while others are still in the classroom, it’s not feasible for teachers to instruct in both in-person and virtual settings at the same time.

There will be no school at Reynolds or at John Wetten on Thursday or Friday as teachers prepare for the transition, which will last from Sept. 20-24. Students are expected to return to the classroom the following week.

While students are at home, Reynolds will implement additional processes meant to mitigate any future exposure and spread. These processes including reinforcing seating charts for both classrooms and buses, along with prohibiting spectators from attending any sporting events until further notice.

One other process the high school is planning on implementing is asking families to voluntarily provide the school with their student’s vaccination status. Once a student is confirmed to be fully vaccinated, they will not be required to quarantine after a future exposure.

Meanwhile, Portland Public Schools is now eyeing a possible vaccine mandate for all eligible students as it scrambles to fill positions and keep up with case reporting, testing and contact tracing. The school board is slated to meet for a work session on whether to require student vaccines. Before then, it will survey parents on the current vaccination status of all students 12 and older.

A new dashboard run by the district shows 49 students and 10 staffers have isolated just a few weeks into the school year, meaning they tested positive or were a presumptive case.

A total of 232 other students and staff were quarantined after contact tracing, with just 64 of those exposures happening at a school building. The remaining cases were contracted off-campus and several have been confirmed on school buses.

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