Bend-La Pine Schools has reported 58 new COVID cases in the last 10 days, forcing some 700 students to quarantine at home until they’re in the clear, Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist told board members Tuesday night.
The number represents about 5% of the district’s student body.
“It’s a very concerning time,” Nordquist said of the situation in the schools and throughout Deschutes County.
Local cases are as high as they’ve ever been, according to Deschutes County Health. And Nordquist acknowledged the spike coincided with schools returning to full, in-person instruction.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily because our schools are open…
I think it’s because of the attitude that our public has that because the schools are open, they can resume a normal life.”
– Bend-La Pine Schools Board Member Amy Tatom
Nordquist said at the elementary level quarantines involve whole classes so teachers are able to shift to a distance learning model, limiting the disruption to students.
It’s harder at the high school level, she said, because it puts more pressure on teachers to have materials prepared.
She said about 450 of the students quarantined are in middle and high school.
The teacher can’t provide all the instruction and all the assignments and also be there live online full time during the day, she said.
“My feeling is our case counts don’t start going down fairly soon, we might need to look at a Plan B,” Nordquist said. “And I’m not sure what that is, but we have a lot of kids at home right now and that’s a concern.”
She said it would be a school-by-school decision on whether to return fully to online instruction.
They might also look at some schedule modifications for middle and high schoolers to allow more student-teacher time.
Board Member Amy Tatom said she was dismayed by rising cases in the county and blamed the public, not the children.
“The numbers are really awful right now,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily because our schools are open, I think it’s because of the attitude that our public has that because the schools are open, they can resume a normal life.”
She said the public is jeopardizing things like the currently planned in-person graduation ceremonies for local seniors.
Nordquist said she’s pleased the county health department is launching a COVID vaccination clinic at the district’s high schools beginning this week.
Each high school will host two clinics before the end of the school year, allowing students who choose to participate to be fully vaccinated before the summer:
Bend Senior High School: April 29 and May 20
La Pine High School: May 6 and May 27
Mountain View High School: May 4 and May 25
Summit High School: May 6 and May 27
“We are monitoring and watching and are certainly concerned about the high counts in the county right now and how it’s impacting our schools,” Nordquist said.
The board talked about students wearing masks and following the rules in school, but as soon as they leave the building they’re piling into cars and hanging with friends.
Board Member Caroline Skidmore said she was happy to see so many young people getting vaccinated and expected more to take advantage of the upcoming clinics.
“But for now, there’s a lot of reckless activity that’s happening and we’re going to be in this for a while longer it looks like,” she said.
You can watch the full school board meeting below: