Some Oregon districts delay back-to-school over COVID spike

Some Oregon districts delay back-to-school over COVID spike

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multiple school districts across Oregon have pushed back the start of the 2021-2022 school year because of COVID-19 concerns from the delta variant.

The Neah-Kah-Nie School District in north Tillamook County announced Tuesday it will move to comprehensive distance learning. Superintendent Paul Erlebach said the rising case counts and deaths are to blame.

Erlebach sent a letter to parents in the district that laid out the reasons and said the change to CDL will be the safest for students and staff. The start date is also sliding from September 7 to September 13. The letter is at the bottom of this article.

Students will not be involved in any extracurriculars, he said.

The Clatskanie School District in Columbia County is also delaying the start of its school year to Sept. 13. Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said classes were supposed to begin on Tuesday.

“We have had a lot of our students exposed and in quarantine so we’ve been getting phone calls about students not being able to be there for the first week of school and we have staff that are either in quarantine or have COVID,” said Hurowitz. “So we just thought to be safe to put a pause on coming back to school.”

Hurowitz said more than 35 students and staff members are currently either in quarantine or have COVID. She said the fact that hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID patients also factored into the decision to delay the start of the school year.

Last week, Alsea School District, Culver School District and South Umpqua High School are all pushing their return date back after an increase in COVID-19 cases. This surge, largely powered by the delta variant, has resulted in a number of teachers and school staff being exposed and infected.

Last week, Tillamook County officials asked the state of Oregon for a refrigerated morgue truck to handle their COVID cases.

On Tuesday, Tillamook Commissioner Mary Faith Bell released information with some alarming stats for the county of 27,000 people.

“Tillamook County reports 666 new positive cases in the past month. Of those 666, approximately 13 percent are children. From July 25 to August 21, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reports that 87 Tillamook County children under 18 years of age were diagnosed with COVID,” Bell said.

OHA Pediatric COVID-19 Case Rates by County

“This is a surge of the unvaccinated. Statewide, 88 percent of new COVID cases are among the unvaccinated,” she said. “Of 13 confirmed COVID deaths in Tillamook County, 11 were unvaccinated, and two did not have vaccination records, so they are presumed unvaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Portland Public Schools will start the new school year Wednesday. Chris Kemper, a Chapman Elementary School parent, said he’s “really impressed” with the district’s efforts to ensure safety.

“I think both parents and kids are excited about it. Last year was a very long year. Just having the kids back in school for academics and their social interaction is fantastic. Masks or not,” Kemper said.

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