Education

David Douglas School District closing to potentially prepare some or all schools for distance learning

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Jan. 12, 2022 1:23 a.m.

The district joins many others in the state who have made similar decisions amid a surge of COVID-19 cases

Oregon’s largest high school and its surrounding elementary and middle schools will close to students on Thursday and Friday to prepare for a potential switch to online learning.

The David Douglas School District announced the two-day closure Tuesday, stating that it needs to prepare for schools — or the entire district — to return to comprehensive distance learning due to understaffing.

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Multiple other schools and districts in the state have recently made the decision to return to distance learning amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, including schools in the Portland, Parkrose, Tigard-Tualatin and Vancouver school districts.

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David Douglas High School has more than 3200 students from diverse backgrounds. A majority of students are ethnic minorities, with more Latino and Asian students than African-American students.

David Douglas High School has more than 3,200 students from diverse backgrounds.

Rob Manning / OPB

David Douglas officials said in a message to families Tuesday that it had 81 staff members in quarantine last week, and it expects the total this week to be “significantly higher still.” That compares to a weekly average of around three to five staff members quarantining throughout much of last year.

“[C]ases of COVID-19 continue to spike in large part because of the rapid spread of the omicron variant. Infections of our staff and students are accelerating quickly,” the district wrote. “We expect this acceleration to continue as this month goes on. We are at the point where very soon some or all of our schools will no longer be able to operate safely due to severe understaffing.”

The district noted it is not only experiencing a teaching shortage — and substitute teacher shortage — but also a shortage of custodians, bus drivers and other school staff.

The district said the two closure days at the end of this week are “transition time” for staff and schools to be able to prepare for potential shifts to distance learning.

David Douglas told families that during the closure Thursday, Friday and into the upcoming three-day weekend, it will continue to track staffing numbers, and it will give “timely updates” on any move to online learning.

“We hope to have students back in school next week, but frankly it is the omicron variant of COVID-19 that will drive that decision,” the district wrote in its message.

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