PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — COVID-related staffing issues have a number of schools in the Portland metro and Vancouver either closed on Tuesday or beginning at least a week of distance learning.
The staffing issues have affected all aspects of school life — teachers, staff, administrators, substitutes, bus drivers — forcing district officials to implement measures that hadn’t been truly considered before the omicron variant began to run wild through the population.
Late Tuesday, PPS announced Jefferson High School will be closed Wednesday and then move forward with distance learning through at least Wednesday, January 19.
So far, more than 17,000 Portland metro students are going remote for at least a short time.
On Tuesday, PPS said they had almost 400 teachers out sick and can’t find enough substitutes to fill even half those positions. About 25% of students are also out of the classroom
District leaders told KOIN 6 News they hold meetings every few hours to look at the numbers and staffing issues as well as remaining in communication with public health leaders.
In the Portland Public School district, Roosevelt, Cleveland and McDaniel high schools are in distance learning for the rest of the week. So is Ockley Green Middle School. Faubion PK-8 School will be closed on Tuesday to prepare for distance learning for at least the rest of the week.
But PPS leaders said they did not consider shutting down all schools for a week.
“It was brought up in a meeting with our public health officials and what I heard loud and clear was that does not seem like a viable way to tamper down the spread of COVID,” said PPS Chief Officer Jonathan Garcia.
The sense was the COVID spread is happening outside schools, not in the classrooms where kids are required to wear masks and maintain other safety protocols.
The 6 schools in the Parkrose School District were closed Monday and will be closed Tuesday. District officials said temporary distance learning would begin for all students on Wednesday. The schools affected are Parkrose High, Parkrose Middle, plus Prescott, Russell, Sacramento and Shaver elementary schools.
Late Monday afternoon, the Vancouver School District announced some of their schools would include remote learning 4 days a week for the next 3 weeks.
Schools affected this week are McLoughlin Middle School and Fort Vancouver High School. Then between January 18-21, temporary remote learning will be done at Columbia River High School, Skyview High School, Alki Middle School, Jason Lee Middle School and Jefferson Middle School.
Then from January 24-27, these Vancouver schools will be remote: Hudson’s Bay High School
Discovery Middle School, Gaiser Middle School, Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Vancouver iTech Preparatory and Vancouver Flex Academy.
Washington County schools
In the Tigard-Tualatin School District, the Durham Elementary School were closed Monday to prepare for distance learning. The district announced five more schools will move to remote learning starting Thursday, while no school will be held Wednesday for teachers to prepare. These schools include Tualatin High School, Tigard High School, Fowler Middle School, Hazelbrook Middle School and Twality Middle School.
In Beaverton, parents received notice on Monday the district is at “a tipping point” due to absences. Families were told to be prepared for the possibility of temporary remote learning, similar to planning for bad weather school closures.
Forest Grove High School will go remote beginning Tuesday until January 21. School officials said there’s been a high rate of absences lately with 18% of staff and about 32% of students calling out sick.
Colt Gill, the head of the Oregon Education Department, said last week there is no plan now for a statewide closure of schools. But parents should plan ahead since the closures are sudden.
Clackamas County schools
KOIN 6 News learned Lake Oswego schools would not go to distance learning and would shut down if necessary. Those school days would be added at the end of the year. But at this time all Lake Oswego schools remain open.
In an effort to dent the COVID-related issues affecting schools in the region, the Salem-Keizer School District announced there would be no school on Friday, hoping a 4-day weekend helps.
Many public schools are closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day. Oregon’s second-largest school district determined an extra day off may help stem the staffing issues caused by the omicron variant running rampant through the state.