PORTLAND, Ore. — On Monday, six schools in the Portland Public School District reopened after being closed due to staffing shortages and the omicron variant. Schools had to close because there wasn’t enough staff to keep the buildings open during the COVID surge.
The schools that reopened on Monday include Roosevelt High School, Ockley Green Middle School, Faubion PK-8 School, Jefferson High School, Franklin High School and Alliance High School at Meek.
Another campus, Alliance High School at Kenton, is scheduled to open Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, that leaves three schools remaining closed until Feb. 1: Harriet Tubman Middle School, George Middle School, and Kellogg Middle School.
On Monday, Jonathan Garcia, chief of staff for PPS said the COVID-19 omicron surge appears to be leveling off in the district.
“I don't want to jinx it, if you will, but we are seeing the numbers reflect you know, that the shift is happening,” said Garcia.
He said district officials had a meeting with the district's health advisor on Monday.
“He believes, in our conversations, that the [COVID] peak actually already happened here in this region,” Garcia said. “Students’ absence rates are going down. We are […] starting to see staff absence rates also going down.”
That means more staff and students in schools, but officials are still closely monitoring school data, which Garcia said continues to fluctuate.
“I want to be very realistic with our community that right now, these numbers look […] manageable,” he said.
Garcia said that 86% of schools have remained open throughout the surge. But as schools reopen, parents have wondered what the districts' plans are to prevent another closure of schools.
“This is the part of the challenge with, you know, folks wanting kind of a very black and white decision-making matrix about what school closes and what school opens. I think there are a number of things that speak to that decision,” said Garcia.
“Absence rates, COVID cases […] what's happening in the broader community,” he said. “We will always be guided by public health.”
Garcia said the decisions on school closures have been difficult to make, but the priority continues to be keeping schools open for in-person learning.
“We're really thoughtful about the decision and the impact that it's having on our community.”