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Meanwhile, high school students weigh in on toll COVID-19 has taken on physical, mental health

PMG FILE PHOTO - Metzger Elementary School Principal Jessica Swindle holds bags of books donated by the Tigard Public Library that were included in summer 2020 drive-up lunch sacks.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, Durham Elementary and Creekside Community High School are back to in-person learning. Byrom and Bridgeport elementary schools are back to in-person classrooms as well. Alberta Rider has transitioned one classroom to online-only learning with plans to return to in-person classes on Jan. 19 and Metzger Elementary School has transitioned two of its classrooms to online-only lessons with plans to be back in person on Jan. 24. Meanwhile, Fowler, Hazelbrook, and Twality middle schools, along with Tigard and Tualatin high schools, will be back to in-person learning on Jan. 24.

The Tigard-Tualatin School District plans to reopen Durham Elementary School after shuttering it Jan. 10 due to increases in COVID-19 cases related to the omicron variant. Some classrooms at three other schools have moved to temporary distance learning as well.

"Classrooms at Bridgeport, Byrom and Metzger Elementary have transitioned to online instruction," Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith wrote in an online newsletter sent Friday. "Most of the current classrooms impacted will return to in person on 1/18."

It's not immediately known which classrooms were affected at those schools or how many classrooms moved to the distance learning model.

Students were already off on Monday, Jan. 17, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On Jan. 11, the district announced plans to move all the district's middle and high schools to distance learning due to staff shortages and sick students. In-person classes are expected to return on Monday, Jan. 24.

In her Friday newsletter, Rieke-Smith wrote that the considerations on whether to transition a school or only certain classrooms to online-only classes involve a number of factors. Among them are staff absences in a building as well as if the district is able to fill those absences with a substitute teacher. Other considerations include the number of COVID-19 cases, the number of students or staff in quarantine and the overall number of student absences.

"We have also heard from parents and students who fear our temporary transitions to online instruction and the pausing of activities and sports will be extended," Rieke-Smith wrote. "I assure you, as of today we plan to welcome our schools and classrooms back that are scheduled to return in person next Tuesday (Jan. 18)."

She said plans to return to in-person learning at the middle and high schools on Jan. 24 is still a go.

Rieke-Smith said for schools that have transitioned to distance learning, "there has been anywhere from a 9% to 15% improvement in the number of students engaged in learning."

Aishiki Nag, a Tigard High School junior, said she and other students attended the Tigard-Tualatin school board meeting on Jan. 10 to let them know they were afraid of the COVID-19 omicron variant and were stressed.

"In the last couple of weeks, I have seen 60% attendances (in school classrooms), the school (administration) frantically running in and out of classes for contact tracing, and a general consensus of fear," Nag told Pamplin Media Group in an email. "The main problem that we were seeing is that how many students were going to school even if they felt sick to gather material for school, to prepare for finals week."

Nag said she asked the board to cancel finals week to protect students' physical and mental health, something that isn't expected to happen.

"Canceling standardized testing and finals would not only help the large, and growing, number of students currently at home, but it would also let staff members be more empathetic to the situation surrounding us," Nag told the board. "The added pressure of finals is not helping students, either. Our mental health is suffering, and it's causing many people to prioritize their grades over their general well-being."

Nag said while she doesn't think Tigard students will ever get used to online classes, they will get through the 10 days they are off.

"All we are asking for is added accommodations, empathy, and easier access to mental health resources," she said. 


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