COVID surge, vaccine mandate mean some Oregon school delays

At least four school districts have pushed back their start date in Oregon as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations soar and the state introduced new vaccine requirements for teachers and school staff.

The four districts, all in small, rural communities in southern and central Oregon, account for little more than 2,600 students combined.

Alsea School District in Benton County was set to start Monday. But on Aug. 21, Superintendent Marc Thielman shared a message with families, announcing a delay to the school year due to an elementary staff member testing positive for COVID-19.

The first day of school will now be Aug. 30.

Two other districts, both in Douglas County, have also announced delays, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Douglas County has had 1,125 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, the highest in the state. In the Oregon Health Authority’s Aug. 23 update, Douglas County reported 398 new cases and five deaths between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22.

The school year will now begin Sept. 7 for South Umpqua High School students due to staff members in isolation or quarantine. Superintendent Kate McLaughlin said the school does not have currently have enough staff to open. The district’s other schools will open on Aug. 30 as planned.

The Elkton school board, also in Douglas County, voted Monday evening to delay the start of school for three weeks "due to the current surge of COVID cases in Douglas County." School will now begin on Sept. 20.

And Culver School District in Jefferson County said Friday it will delay the start of school until Sept. 20 because of the challenge of meeting the state’s vaccine mandate for teachers, KTVZ-TV reported.

"We do not want any employee to lose their ability to provide for their family or keep their job," Superintendent Stefanie Garber wrote in a letter to families.

The delay will allow the district "to fully plan and prepare for staffing challenges caused by the new vaccine mandate. Our goal is to keep every employee," she said.

The total number of Oregon students affected is relatively small. The four small, rural districts serve a little more than 2600 students altogether.

RELATED: Oregon, once a virus success story, struggles with surge


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