Janitorial staff prepares for students to make a safe return
While some parents scramble to do delayed back-to-school shopping, members of the janitorial staff of Oregon Trail School District are working to make sure kids can return for hybrid learning safely.
The week of Jan. 11 select seniors were allowed to return to Sandy High for limited in-person instruction and last week, a group of middle schoolers followed suit. The first wave of students to return were those deemed at risk of not progressing academically.
Now, after weeks of declining COVID cases per capita in Clackamas County, Oregon Trail is preparing to welcome back more students for hybrid learning, starting with kindergarten and first-grade students on Feb. 18.
According to the advisory metrics for returning to in-person instruction provided by Willamette Education Service District, Clackamas County has steadily decreased in cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over the past three weeks. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 9, 2021, the county sat at 349.30 cases per 100,000 people. Between Jan. 3-16 the case count was 309.2 per 100,000. From Jan. 10-23, the rate had dropped to 226 cases per 100,000. And more recently, between Jan. 17-30, the case count dropped to 204.1 per 100,000.
According to the now advisory metrics from the state, schools in counties with fewer than 350 cases per 100,000 people averaging over 14 days and the test positivity rate is less than 10% can move to reopen for elementary on-site hybrid learning.
A team of about 17 janitors has been keeping the schools clean and sanitized even while students and staff haven't been in the schools. Now, they'll be making sure there isn't any COVID transmission during hybrid classes.
"It is a big learning curve," said Assistant Facilities Supervisor Nolan Omeara. "Technology has helped us out as far as electrostatic sprayers. (COVID) has taken away the traditional way of cleaning."
"It's interesting to see how our job descriptions have evolved over the past year," added Chelsea Lincoln Lane, facilities administrative assistant.
COVID has really changed how the janitorial staff address cleaning. There is now a heavy focus on sanitizing and there's an even higher emphasis on all touch surfaces. With the extra sanitation needs created by the pandemic, janitor Bryan Kellim said he's even getting more steps in nowadays.
"It is a big change from what you usually have to do," explained janitor Andy Jackson. "(We've had) to step up."
Hybrid instruction requires students participate in in-person instruction for two days a week and virtual instruction for two days a week. Students in Cohort A will be in-person on Monday and Thursday and participate in distance learning Tuesday and Friday. Students in Cohort B will be in-person on Tuesday and Friday and participate in distance learning Monday and Thursday. Both cohorts will attend advisory classes via distance learning on Wednesday.
The janitorial staff said that the lack of students on Wednesdays is imperative so that they have time to deep clean.
Regardless of the extra work, Omeara said they are excited to have students back in the schools.
"It'll be good to see kids back," he said.
"(The members of the janitorial staff) are the heroes people don't get to see," added Julia Monteith, district communications director. "We would not be able to open without them."
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