‘Excessive’ COVID absences force school closures in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — At least three schools in Portland, Oregon, were closed Friday due to staffing shortages and “excessive” absences caused by COVID-19.
Officials from Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, said 431 staff members had called out by Thursday evening. At least 175 of the positions were unable to be filled by substitutes. As a result, Cleveland High School and McDaniel High School were closed Friday.
Both schools will be doing distance learning starting Monday through at least Friday Jan. 14.
Officials from Parkrose Elementary School also cancelled class on Friday, citing “excessive staff and student absences,” along with a lack of available substitute teachers. Parkrose Superintendent Michael Lopes Serrao confirmed to KOIN 6 that the absences are COVID-19 related.
Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases around the state driven by the omicron variant, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority jointly recommended on Monday that districts either implement new safeguards to slow the spread of COVID or temporarily stop extracurricular activities altogether.
In response, officials from Portland Public Schools announced that athletes will be required to wear masks at all times during sports competitions and practices, as well as music and dance performances.
The district is also limiting access to locker rooms, ending overnight travel for extracurricular activities and will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for anyone attending an after-school event who is over age 5.
School cancellations and tightening restrictions comes as Oregon continues to surpass single day high marks for COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, for the fourth consecutive day, Oregon set a daily record for the number of new COVID-19 cases — 7,615. Over the past week, Oregon has averaged 4,001 cases a day, a 162% increase.
On Thursday, nearly one-fourth of the state’s reported COVID-19 tests were positive for the virus.
Hospitals for the first time also reported the biggest single-day uptick in weeks, with 588 people in care who tested positive, a 12% spike since Wednesday.
There currently are only 42 available adult intensive care unit beds and 95% of the state’s staffed adult non-ICU beds are full.