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Estacada School District superintendent credits work of employees as the reason for schools remaining open


As schools across Oregon continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter said he thinks the district will be able to remain open.

As the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to rise, districts across the Portland Metro area, including Gresham Barlow, Centennial, Reynolds and some schools within Portland Public announced they would temporarily shutter because of staffing shortages on Friday, Jan. 14.

"The reason why we are remaining open right now as a school district is due to the tremendous and selfless work of our employees. They're putting the team first and covering for each other. So, a question that we're being asked is will we close our schools. Right now, as your superintendent, I am confident that we will not have to do so at this moment. At this moment, we are not close to the threshold of needing to close, but that's subject to change at any moment," Carpenter said during a school board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13.

He noted that since Estacada schools reopened after winter break, an average of 8.3% of the workforce is absent daily. The substitute fill rate for the school year is 64% for classroom teachers and 26% for classified employees.

"The only example that I see that would require us to completely close the district is the mass loss of our bus fleet and or bus drivers to equitably get all kids to attend our schools," Carpenter said.

He added that it is more likely that an individual school building would temporarily transition to virtual learning for a specific day if adequate staffing levels were not available.

"We are working with our school association and soon to start working with language so that our school district can pivot and move faster to the needs of our families as well as keep the school days continuously going. If we were to have to close a school, we would need to add additional days to the end of the school year to meet the state requirements and thresholds of the annual seat our time, and so right now we're trying to work hard to be able to pivot quickly so that we can keep our learning going without losing any days," Carpenter said.

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