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District shuts down already limited activities at Joan Austin Elementary and Mountain View Middle School

A pair of Newberg students have tested positive for COVID-19, the school district announced in a message to parents Oct. 12. The two students, who were not identified, attend Joan Austin Elementary School and Mountain View Middle School.PMG FILE PHOTO - A pair of Newberg students have tested positive for COVID-19, the school district announced in a message to parents Oct. 12.

Newberg students are still in comprehensive distance learning, so neither student brought the virus with them into a school building. But despite the lack of in-person classes risking transmission of the virus among students, the district communicated the news to parents and added additional restrictions to the two school buildings.

"It was a good chance for us while we're still in Comprehensive Distance Learning to see how our systems work and practice communication about this," said district communications coordinator Gregg Koskela. "We got the notification from the county about the cases, which were expected, and we notified our staff how we will handle this. County officials have conducted contact tracing and are reaching out to those in the community who may have been in contact with the infected students."

Because the district remains in full distance learning with no in-person class attendance, the only effect of these positive tests was the postponement of limited in-person activities at Joan Austin and Mountain View, including special education evaluations and other forms of testing, until Oct. 18.

"It has a small effect on our ability to do certain things in the buildings for the next couple weeks, but we're practicing the process of responding to this so when the time comes for the hybrid model we'll be ready to react accordingly," Koskela said. "It sounds like the students are doing fine and that's great to hear."

Both students are not dealing with serious illness at this point, Koskela said, but their positive tests serve as one of what will likely be a handful of dry runs for the district before it returns to some form of in-person learning during the pandemic. While that is way off and none of the district's three home counties (Yamhill, Washington, Clackamas) are close to statewide metrics allowing hybrid learning, it remains important to practice communication with the public on this issue.

"The state has different guidelines for what they call limited in-person learning," Koskela said. "We haven't done any of them so far except for testing for special-education students and our IEPs. We don't anticipate having hybrid learning for a while, given state mandated metrics."

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