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Schools Postpone Opening Due To COVID-Related Staff Shortages

 Students at Wilson Elementary School in the Medford School District in February, 2021.
Students at Wilson Elementary School in the Medford School District in February, 2021.

At the beginning of this week, the approximately 900 students who attend Jackson County’s Rogue River School District were planning to be back in classes.

On Friday, the district’s high school was missing one support staff and two instructors who were quarantining from exposure to COVID-19. But, on Sunday, the day before classes were set to start, Superintendent Patrick Lee says three more high school support staff were quarantined because of exposure to the virus.

“That left us in a position where we didn’t have any of our support staff available to help us open up on the first day of school,” Lee says.

The district is now pushing high school classes back by a week in order to train other staff for back-to-school duties like registration, class scheduling and locker assignments. The district’s Rogue River Elementary School and South Valley Academy were unaffected by the closure.

In California’s Shasta County the Castle Rock School and Anderson Middle School also announced on Monday that they were closing for COVID-related reasons.

The Oregon Department of Education does not keep track of how many schools have had to close. Health and safety protocols are largely up to districts to create this year according to the department. Face coverings are required in all indoor school settings.

Lee with the Rogue River School District says substitute teachers are in high demand right now but he hasn’t heard of any other districts in Oregon that have had to close yet.

“I think a lot of us are kind of teetering and hanging on the very thin thread of having to do this kind of stuff,” he says. “Unfortunately for us, we got late notice that we were the first ones.”

Copyright 2021 Jefferson Public Radio

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.