PPS ups unmasked spacing, readies for weekly testing


'The goal is to catch students when they're positive to prevent them from spreading it further.'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Parents at Portland Public Schools can expect some changes to COVID-19 protocols for their students this week.

The Multnomah County Health Department recently updated its guidelines for mealtimes and now recommends students sit six feet apart when masks are off, as opposed to three feet. The new guidance may mean mealtime has to move outdoors, in the hallways, or in classrooms. Tents and chairs may be set up outside when possible.

PPS said many schools are requesting outdoor tents ahead of the rainy season. Some schools take priority over others due to limited indoor space to spread kids out.

The district faces some logistical challenges in getting tents to schools: pop-up tents are too flimsy and can only fit up to five kids, and the larger event tents are in short supply and require installation and regular maintenance.

For now, the weather is fair enough for PPS to move kids outside and keep them six feet apart.

Meal plan standard operating procedures
Meal plans by school
Back-to-school family guide

Weekly testing

All PPS schools have opted in for the weekly COVID testing program and now it’s up to parents to sign up. Weekly testing isn’t required, though there will be plenty of supplies to accommodate it if parents wish.

The Oregon Health and Science University and PPS officials shared a timeline for weekly COVID testing so parents can know what to expect. This week, parents should watch for an email from their principal which will explain how to sign up for testing.

Schools will collect forms next week and share them with OHSU so the hospital can prepare shipments of testing materials for each school.

OHSU’s K-12 COVID-19 screening program

In a few weeks, weekly COVID tests will be available for K-5 students.

Donna Hansel, the chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at OHSU, said the goal is to have the program running smoothly and doing that takes time.

“It’s a really large testing program with a lot of pieces that maybe not everyone sees behind the scenes,” Hansel said.

Once the program is underway, OHSU said testing will be another tool in the district’s health and safety toolbox.

“The goal is to catch students when they’re positive to prevent them from spreading it further,” said Hansel.

OHSU lab officials said they will send results to parents within 24 to 48 hours. Hansel said parents will be instructed to collect samples in the morning before their students leave for school and samples can be left at room temperature for up to eight hours.

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