Omicron issues change schooling in Portland metro, Salem

Education

Districts making plans as staffing status changes

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — 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.

Salem-Keizer is now among the districts that have either closed schools and/or transitioned to distance learning as a temporary measure. Schools in Portland, Vancouver, Tigard-Tualatin and Forest Grove have implemented the remote school option once again.

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.

PPS: Important Information Regarding Potential Transition to Temporary Distance Learning

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 6 schools in the Parkrose School District are now in temporary distance learning for at least the rest of this week. 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.

Vancouver Public Schools — complete details

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.

In the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Durham Elementary School is now in distance learning. The district announced 5 more schools will move to remote learning starting Thursday, with no school on Wednesday for teachers to prepare. These schools include Tualatin High School, Tigard High School, Fowler Middle School, Hazelbrook Middle School and Twality Middle School.

Forest Grove High School is now remote 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.

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.

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.

This comes as both Oregon and Washington are seeing an increase in kid cases needing medical care.

While children still make up only a small percent of those hospitalized with COVID, there are Oregon kids on ventilaors. In most cases, those hospitalized are not vaccinated.

OHSU said they have five children in the ICU with COVID complications. Statewide, that number is in the mid-teens.  

KOIN 6 News spoke with a doctor of pediatrics at OHSU Wednesday afternoon, in some cases, including teens, he said kids are so sick they are on ventilators. 

Clark County Public Health Director, Dr. Alan Melnick, also pointed out to the Board of Health Wednesday morning the increase in hospitalizations in the birth to age four group who can’t get vaccinated yet.

KOIN 6 News also spoke with a leading researcher at the University of Washington who says the wave of omicron, while going down in parts of the country, is about to hit its peak here around January 29.

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