Newport Middle, Waldport students and staff quarantined

Positive COVID-19 cases in both students and staff at Waldport Junior and High School earlier this month prompted multiple quarantine advisories for close contacts. (Photo by Michael Heinbach)

WALDPORT — Students and staff at two Lincoln County School District schools have been advised to quarantine after potential exposure to COVID-19.

Two staff members at Waldport Junior and Senior High tested positive Nov. 9 and were listed in the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report Nov. 18. Those staff members, who reported feeling symptoms before testing positive, did not directly interact with students. The following week, the OHA report included a third staff member, who tested positive Nov. 13. Unlike with the prior two cases, 17 pupils and staff with whom they had close contact were advised to quarantine.

Most middle and high school students in Lincoln County are still using comprehensive distance learning, but some career technical education students are in classrooms, as are some high school students without at-home internet access, special-needs students and students displaced by the wildfires.

Susan Van Liew, LCSD assistant superintendent, told the News-Times in an email that the first set of students and staff who quarantined at Waldport were allowed to return earlier this week.  She said an additional group of students in Waldport had been advised to quarantine due to potential exposure to a student COVID-19 case — which has not yet appeared in the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report — and those students can return Dec. 2.

Additionally, Van Liew said, a group of students and staff at Newport Middle School have been warned they may have been exposed. “Based on the information given to us yesterday,” Van Liew said, “we quarantined students and staff in a class at NMS because of potential exposure to a COVID-19 case on Nov. 19 and 20. Those quarantined will be able to return on Dec. 7.” An update sent to the school community Tuesday said the district was aware of a bus driver testing positive. Lincoln County Public Health later said six employees of First Student, which provides transportation services for the district, had tested positive.

The Oregon Department of Education has promulgated guidance for school response to an outbreak within the “Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools” toolkit, which the district relies upon as part of its reopening blueprint. The document (tinyurl.com/y3j8q8eq) outlines 12 scenarios based on conditions such as testing results, whether cases are within the same or from multiple cohorts, the presence of symptoms and the type of exposure/proximity of contacts.

Lincoln County’s new COVID-19 case rate for the previous two weeks is 161 per 100,000 residents, moving the school district into a new category according to the education department’s metrics for conducting in-person classes. They’d previously been in the “green” tier, with fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000, in which schools are allowed to bring all grades back into classrooms. The district is now in the “orange” tier — between 100 and 200 new cases per 100,000 — meaning it should consider a transition to comprehensive distance learning with “limited in-person instruction.”

If new cases rise above 200 per 100,000, the district would move into “red,” which means implementing distance learning, again with allowable limited in-person instruction.

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