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Multiple Portland-area, Vancouver schools transition to distance learning due to COVID staffing shortages

Thousands of students are back to online learning as omicron continues to infect a record number of people in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) is one of the latest district transitioning some of its schools to distance learning due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19.

VPS announced on Monday a schedule for schools going to a four-day distance learning week due to a shortage of bus drivers who are either sick or in quarantine:

Jan. 11-14
McLoughlin Middle School
Fort Vancouver High School
(Remote two-hour late start on Tuesday, Jan. 11 only; the regular bell schedule will be followed at McLoughlin and Fort Vancouver on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.)

Jan. 18-21
Columbia River High School
Skyview High School
Alki Middle School
Jason Lee Middle School
Jefferson Middle School
(Monday, Jan. 17, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day; no school for students)

Jan. 24-27 
Hudson’s Bay High School
Discovery Middle School
Gaiser Middle School
Vancouver School of Arts and Academics
Vancouver iTech Preparatory
Vancouver Flex Academy

VPS said that on remote learning days:

  • School cafeterias, libraries and FCRCs will be open for students who need to access the internet or need a safe place to go during remote learning.
  • Grab-and-go meals will be available at each location on remote days from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Middle school extracurricular activities and athletics will be paused.
  • High school extracurricular activities: Check in with your school.

RELATED: All Parkrose School District schools closed due to COVID-19 staffing shortage, other schools transition to distance learning

Portland-area schools

VPS is certainly not the only school district suffering from staffing shortages caused by infection or isolation due to COVID-19 and the omicron variant.

Portland-area schools are also feeling the pressure of the omicron wave. 

On Tuesday, The Tigard-Tualatin School District is closing five middle and high schools starting Thursday, Jan. 13.  The following schools will be closed January 12 for a teacher planning day before they transition to remote learning.

  • Tualatin High School
  • Tigard High School
  • Fowler Middle School
  • Hazelbrook Middle School
  • Twality Middle School 

All events and sports activities will be postponed while in remote learning. Schools are expected to return to in-person instruction on January 24. 

The Hillsboro School District said two elementary schools are temporarily closed due to several positive cases or exposures for COVID-19 at the schools.  

  • Indian Hills Elementary: Closed 1/10 for teacher planning day. Remote learning January 11-13. No school January 14 or 17. Return to in-person on January 18.
  • Brookwood Elementary: Closed 1/11 for teacher planning day. Remote learning January 12-13. No school January 14 or 17. Remote learning January 18-20. Return to in-person January 21. 

Three Portland Public high schools have moved to distance learning: Cleveland, McDaniel and Roosevelt. Portland Public Schools is the biggest district in the state with more than 49,000 schools. As of Monday, it reported 813 students isolated, 565 quarantined, along with 165 staff isolated and 72 staff quarantined.

Ockley Green Middle School in Portland has also moved to distance learning, as has the entire Parkrose School District. It closed Monday and Tuesday to allow teachers time to prepare for the transition. Distance learning will start for the district on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

On Monday, the Faubion pre-K through 8th-grade campus also announced it will be closing on Tuesday, Jan. 11 to prepare to transition to distance learning on Jan. 12 through at least Jan. 14.

Colt Gill, Director of Oregon’s Department of Education warned late last week that COVID would force this change.

“The primary reason is that there is too many staff impacted by COVID-19 to be able to operate schools in person. They’re either ill or quarantined. This will cause challenges for everyone in that school community,” he said.

The Beaverton School District warned parents it may have to move some schools to online learning soon. It's the third biggest district in the state and reported that among its 39,000 students, 730 are isolated, which means they tested positive or are showing symptoms for COVID. Another 581 are quarantined, which means they had close contact with someone who is positive.

The district also has 138 staff who are isolated.

“There's no specific threshold point. We’re taking all these factors into consideration and it really is going to be decided on a school by school basis,” said spokeswoman Shellie Bailey-Shah. “Our top priority is to keep children in school for in-person instruction. That’s a lesson we’ve clearly learned over the last two years, that children do better academically, socially and emotionally when they’re here at school.

Schools around the state

Not everyone is feeling the squeeze right now.

In southern Oregon, the Klamath County School District, with 21 schools and 7,000 students, reports staffing is not an issue and all schools are open for in-person learning.

RELATED: Roosevelt High returns to temporary distance learning over COVID-related absences

In the Eugene area, Tony Scurto, Superintendent of the Lane Education District was asked Monday if schools are closing because of COVID, he said, “As of now? No. But staffing shortages are making it difficult to continue each and every day. But they’re doing it right now.”

The Salem-Keizer school district is the second biggest in the state and also has avoided a return to virtual classes so far.

Among its 42,000 students, the district reported on Monday 61 students with confirmed positive cases and 30 staff members also positive.

RELATED: Students weary as PPS temporarily moves two high schools to remote learning, signals more could be on the way

Omicron continues to cause a record number of cases across the state and health officials believe that it will continue to get worse before it gets better. There are mass vaccination sites across the state if you are looking to get a booster or vaccine. You can find them here. 

Have a comment or story idea for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com

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