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Portland Public Schools and other districts have changed COVID-19 policies

School districts like Portland Public Schools and Beaverton are now following COVID-19 guidelines from OHA instead of the CDC. These policies are less restrictive.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Parents and teachers in some of Oregon’s largest school districts are growing concerned with new COVID guidelines. 

Portland Public Schools and the Beaverton School District are both using guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority over those recommended by the CDC. This means students can now go to school if they test positive for COVID but are asymptomatic.

CDC guidelines recommend that people stay home and isolate for at least five days after testing positive.

"Kids are just going to spread it to their whole class,” said Laura Mertens, a mother of two PPS elementary school students.

Mertens said her son's first grade class has already had a COVID outbreak where 15 kids got sick. That quickly spread to their family members, Mertens said.

"Over 30 people have COVID just from a class outbreak," she said.

PPS is advising students to stay home if they have symptoms. But parents are not required to report if their student tests positive. Kids also don’t need to isolate for a certain number of days.

"I mean, basically with this policy, almost every child at a PPS school is gonna get COVID," Mertens said.

"Many air purifiers are not working in classrooms,” added Rimona Eskayo, a PPS substitute teacher. “Or they're just not being turned on."

From January 2022 to June 2023, the CDC reported that half of children who died from COVID did not have underlying conditions. Almost 25% of kids in intensive care with COVID didn’t have underlying conditions either. 

PPS followed CDC guidelines last year, Mertens said. But to many parents, the change has been confusing.

"So last year was like the CDC policy, where you stay home for five days, and then you come back for days 6-10 with a mask,” Mertens said. “And a lot of parents I think thought it was still like that, but it's not."        

PPS said that if there is an outbreak, every school has a plan in place. The Multnomah Education Service District will investigate any outbreaks. All PPS policies follow OHA guidance, and a spokesperson said the school district will also report any unusual clusters of an illness, such as COVID.

But parents are still concerned that not enough is being done.

"The thought of kids just being re-infected again and again and again is obviously a terrible idea," Mertens said.

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