Bend-La Pine Schools leader reassures parents goal is to keep kids in class

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More than 1,000 Bend-La Pine Schools students and 100 staff members were out last week due to COVID.

But the district’s leader says it’ll stay business as usual in schools for as long as possible, despite the rising case counts.

“I want to take a moment and assure you our schools remain open, with no plans to go remote at this time,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook said in an email to families Friday. “Please know that we are doing everything we can to keep our schools open for in-person learning, as we firmly believe that is the best place for students. Our schools continue to be places filled with learning and engagement where students are thriving.”

The district’s COVID dashboard went down last week and remains out of commission.

But on Thursday officials said there were 600 students who have tested positive and another 450 students quarantined.

More than 100 staff members were out due to positive cases and 15 more were also quarantined.

“Keeping schools open and extracurriculars continuing has been challenging at times due to the number of students and staff that are currently dealing with illness, however, we remain committed to sustaining as much structure and stability for our students as possible, and remain focused on our commitment to in-person instruction,” Cook said.

Those numbers could go up as COVID cases jump in Deschutes County.

Last week’s numbers aren’t yet available for Deschutes County but the Oregon Health Authority reported more than 3,000 cases here Tuesday-Friday alone. 

Two weeks ago Cook warned parents a return to remote learning would be an option if the COVID situation with teachers worsened.

The district has struggled to fill all the necessary substitute teaching positions it needs and publicly has urged anyone thinking about getting into the profession to consider filling in right now.

But Cook said the district has made some temporary changes to help keep school doors open, including:

    •    Limiting spectators at athletic and activities events,
    •    Dispatching district staff to help at schools when the number of substitute teachers and staff available do not meet the demand,
    •    Providing COVID-19 testing for qualifying employees and students to keep them at school when they’ve been exposed (per state guidance),
    •    Making diagnostic testing available in all schools,
    •    Providing 3-ply medical-grade masks and KN95 masks to students and staff who request them,
    •    Working toward alignment to Center for Disease Control and Oregon Health Authority guidance for shortened isolation and quarantine periods for students. This could allow students to return to school earlier after isolation or quarantine, thus reducing instructional time loss.

Cook also once again urged families to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible, stay home if they’re sick, up their mask game and avoid large crowds.

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