Families should prepare contingency plans for a return to online learning and spectators will now be limited at sporting events and other extracurricular events, Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Steven Cook wrote in an email to parents Friday evening.
Cook told parents they need to “begin thinking about what things would look like for your family if we need to move to remote learning – a last resort, but one we must begin to entertain, at a classroom and school level.”
COVID cases are at all-time highs in Deschutes County as the omicron variant spreads rapidly in the community.
The county reported 940 cases alone on Friday and currently, 1 in 28 residents has COVID.
The school district is bracing for more teachers and students forced to quarantine due to COVID transmission as cases continue to rise.
As of Friday, the district’s COVID dashboard showed 17 staff members and 353 students in quarantine due to COVID exposure.
The High Desert Education Services District, the agency that places substitute teachers within the district, said the district requested 141 substitutes on Friday and they were able to fill 122 of those positions.
Bend-La Pine on Monday morning requested 120 substitutes and the ESD was able to fill 99 spots.
Cook said every effort will be made to keep kids in class, but “due to the increasing numbers of persons continuing to be isolated due to COVID-19, we may soon be in a position in which we are unable to have students learn safely at school due to staffing shortages.”
Any return to online learning would be on a class-by-class or school-by-school basis – not districtwide, Cook said.
“If a classroom or school transitions to remote learning, we will make every attempt to provide appropriate notification prior to the transition,” he wrote. “The first day of the transition will be used by educators to prepare materials for students. Instruction will begin remotely on day two.”
He said students would use their school-issued iPad for remote instructions and the transition would be at least five days – but possibly 10 or more.
Cook said the district is in constant communication with county and state health leaders about the most current situation.
Outside the classroom, Cook said spectator restrictions will begin on Monday for districtwide extracurricular events.
For sporting events between two schools, spectators will be limited to four people per participant.
Each athlete, cheerleader, coach or member of the dance team can invite four people. (More details below.)
Cook said the move is in response to the Oregon Department of Education’s request earlier this week to halt extracurricular events or make changes that allow for more strict adherence to safety protocols.
No spectators will be allowed at larger events such as tournaments that involve more than two schools.
“These spectator modifications are intended to reduce contact exposures, encourage greater distancing, allow for 100% masking compliance, and further our efforts to protect our student-athletes, coaches, and community,” Cook said.
You can read Cook’s full letter below:
Bend-La Pine Schools Families,
In the week we have been open since coming back from winter break, it feels as if our conditions are changing on a daily, even hourly, basis.
We have heard from many families, reaching out and wondering about the impact surging cases could have on our schools and extracurricular activities. My goal today is to share what we know to date, so that you can be as prepared as possible.
Today’s update includes temporary changes to spectator rules and COVID-19 isolation and quarantine notification and an ask to begin thinking about what things would look like for your family if we need to move to remote learning – a last resort, but one we must begin to entertain, at a classroom or school level.
We understand that school closures would impact our families significantly.
To be clear, our goal is to keep our students learning in-person, every day, as we know that this is the best place for them academically, socially, mentally and emotionally. Additionally, we are committed to do our best to continue extracurricular activities, with additional mitigation measures that are shared below.
We believe we have proven that, with mitigation strategies in place like masking, and distancing, our schools are among the safest places for our students. However, we cannot continue to provide on-site instruction in a safe environment if we do not have sufficient staffing.
District leaders have been communicating with state health officials, meeting regularly with local health officials and our pediatric advisory team to monitor the COVID-19 situation in our community, and we’ve also been closely tracking data, nearly hourly, to determine COVID’s impact on our ability to continue to keep classrooms open.
This includes, but is not limited to, monitoring the number of staff and students isolated with COVID-19, the number of staff and students in quarantine, and the number of staffing vacancies not covered by substitutes.
We are backfilling staff vacancies at every opportunity with staff from all departments, including administrators.
Due to the increasing numbers of persons continuing to be isolated due to COVID-19, we may soon be in a position in which we are unable to have students learn safely at school due to staffing shortages.
Should this occur, we would move a classroom, or entire school, to remote learning.
Students would receive instruction remotely, with their teacher(s), via their school issued iPad. This transition would be at least five days in length and could be as many as ten or more, depending on the situation.
Because of this current situation, we urge you to have a contingency plan for your student(s) and family, should a change to remote learning need to occur.
If a classroom or school transitions to remote learning, we will make every attempt to provide appropriate notification prior to the transition. The first day of the transition will be used by educators to prepare materials for students. Instruction will begin remotely on day two.
COVID-19 ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE NOTIFICATION CHANGES
This weekend, Bend-La Pine Schools is making temporary changes to its COVID-19 notification system, due to an increased caseload for the district’s contact tracers and nursing team.
If a student is identified as needing to isolate or identified as a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case, families will receive a phone call from 541-355-1000 or 971-301-4672. Isolation and quarantine information will be sent to the family email as well. Families who see an incoming call from 541-355-1000 or 971-301-4672 should make sure to answer it, as it will likely include pertinent information.
Additionally, families are encouraged to verify contact information on ParentVUE or check with their school offices.
Bend-La Pine Schools believe strongly in the value of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. We remain committed to continuing these critical offerings for our students.
To ensure delivery of these activities can continue as long as it is safe to do so, Bend-La Pine School is announcing changes to indoor spectator guidance for all athletic and activity events held at our schools, beginning Monday, January 10.
These changes are being made to address rapidly escalating cases of COVID-19 in our community and in response to a memo from Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority from Jan. 3, recommending “that schools bring extracurricular activities to a halt, or ensure they follow the same layered mitigation safety protocols practiced during the school day.”
Bend-La Pine Schools remains committed to delivering extra-curricular activities, believing them to be critical offerings for our students and, therefore, we are making changes to our current guidelines in order to protect our student participants and the greater school community.
These spectator modifications are intended to reduce contact exposures, encourage greater distancing, allow for 100% masking compliance, and further our efforts to protect our student athletes, coaches, and community.
Lowering capacity: We will begin by lowering capacities in our facilities and events through a student pass system.
- Four seats per participant at most athletic contests: For athletic contests between two schools (not tournaments), spectators will be limited to four spots per participant. Each athlete, cheerleader, coach or member of the dance team participating at the event will be able to invite four spectators. Guest names will be added to a will call list (by noon on game day) and these guests will check-in upon entry to the facility. Please bring photo identification. No printed tickets will be issued and no walk-ins will be allowed.
- Novice wrestling, middle school wrestling and swimming spectator restrictions. These student athletes will be issued one seat per event to provide seating for families transporting students.
- Four seats per participant for Clubs/Activities: Performing arts and clubs/activities with events planned will follow similar guidelines. Each participant will be able to invite four individuals to be spectators at the event. Guest names will be added to a will call list and no walk-ins will be allowed.
- No spectators at larger events. Spectators will not be permitted at tournaments, city meets or athletic events involving more than two teams, unless called out above.
Spectators agree to comply with guidelines. By accepting the pass and checking-in at the gate, spectators will agree to and be required to follow all COVID protocols, including wearing a mask at all times that covers the mouth and nose.
Non-compliance with protocols could lead to verbal and written warning ultimately denying permission to enter and being trespassed from school properties per KK-AR.
No outside food or drink.
Streaming events. Spectators will be able to watch many athletics and activities events via the NFHS streaming service from home, work or remote location at no charge for the rest of the school year. Go to https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/ and search for your individual school to subscribe and find broadcast schedules.
Our hope is that these temporary measures will be short lived. We love to support our teams, clubs and activities. Please help us keep them going by following this guidance.
Superintendent Steven Cook