PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Earlier this week, dozens of Lake Oswego families were told their children were exposed to a positive COVID-19 case while riding a school bus.
Lake Oswego School District’s Hallinan Elementary currently has three active COVID-19 cases, according to a school official. On Monday, the school announced a total of 47 students were exposed to one of those cases on a school bus.
The school issued a letter to families following the discovery of the positive case. It said, in part, that the school district is following strict state and local guidance to protect the community’s health.
“Exposure to COVID-19 raises concern and care,” the letter read. “Guidance is mandated by the Oregon Health Authority. In the event of an exposure in our schools, the guidance directs LOSD to work with Clackamas County Public Health Authorities in determining close contacts, isolation and quarantine rules, and notification to individuals and the community. When OHA guidance changes, which it has over the course of the pandemic, LOSD updates protocols.”
The last exposures on the school campus and buses from this one case were said to be on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2. The school said they will keep the community updated on any new information while still protecting everyone’s privacy. Moving forward, Lake Oswego is now assigning seats on buses to limit exposures.
“We appreciate your partnership in respecting everyone’s right to privacy and being kind to all, the Hallinan way,” the letter stated.
By Wednesday, the school notified families of two more cases — neither of which were related to the first case or the 47 close contacts. Thankfully, no other close contacts resulted from the two new cases.
Overall, the district has nine active cases.
Ann Nelson, Lake Oswego’s lead district nurse, said the big issue is busing; the rule is that anyone within six feet of someone who is positive on a bus is considered “close contact.” Students who are close contact must go home for 10 days, regardless of testing negative.
“It does touch my heart that they’re having to go through that but I am so thankful that they are because it’s going to help tell it, help all of us, it’ll help kids,” said Nelson.
Armando Gonzalez’s daughter, who is a fourth-grader at Hallinan Elementary, is now in a mandatory 10-day quarantine after being exposed to COVID on a school bus. Gonzalez said he’s a natural optimist and wants his daughter to be in the classroom this year but this immediate COVID exposure casts some doubt in his mind for the future of in-person learning.
“This could keep going and I think that would be very unfortunate to go back to online learning but I’m keeping it as if we’re going to wrap our heads around this as a society and as a community,” he said.
Gonzalez said his daughter won’t be riding the bus anymore and will instead carpool with neighbors once her quarantine is over. Gonzalez said he’s lucky enough to work from home so he doesn’t have to scramble now to get childcare, but he suggests all parents in Oregon and Washington come up with a plan with family and friends in case they have a child that has to be quarantined.
The Lake Oswego School District will hold a public information session about quarantining and other exposure protocols Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. The district said it follows rules laid out by the Oregon Health Authority on isolation and quarantine.