Following new guidance from the state regarding extracurricular activities and the spread of COVID-19, the Lake Oswego School District updated its safety protocols for ongoing athletic competitions. The West Linn-Wilsonville School District is not considering major changes to its operations — for now.
On Monday, Jan. 3, the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority released a school health advisory recommending districts temporarily halt extracurricular activities or implement additional safety measures that are practiced during the school day, like social distancing and face coverings.
The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board will meet Monday, Jan. 10, and district Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom said at this time the state's new advisory is not included on the agenda. But this could change.
"We are not considering (halting extracurriculars) at this time," said Kilstrom.
Starting Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Lake Oswego School District will make slight changes to athletic competitions. Athletes competing in games hosted in school's gymnasiums will be allotted four tickets for spectators. No other audience members, including pep bands, will be permitted inside the gymnasiums. However, games will be live streamed.
Concessions will be suspended.
For swim meets in the LOSD pools, only home team senior athletes will be allotted two tickets for spectators. The meets will be live streamed.
No spectators will be permitted at the upcoming cheer and dance competitions hosted in LOSD facilities.
"LOSD will continue to monitor and evaluate protocols for its school-sponsored extracurricular activities every two weeks. Some events that can be postponed, such as high school dances and performing arts events, are being rescheduled for later this winter," said Superintendent Jennifer Schiele in a letter to the community Tuesday evening.
The state advisory is intended to lift after Jan. 31, but may be updated or extended. Current data from Oregon Health and Science University shows that the state will likely experience a significant uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, beginning in January and continuing through February.
"As Oregon fully experiences the impacts of the Omicron variant over the next several weeks, student access to in-person instruction is under serious threat," the agencies said in the advisory. "While early data indicate that the Omicron variant may result in less severe disease than previous variants, it is increasingly clear that the Omicron variant spreads much more quickly and easily than all previous variants."
In the joint statement, the agencies warned districts that extracurricular activities pose a large risk for the "rapid transmission of COVID-19 that will prevent students from participating in in-person learning." The use of diagnostic testing, vaccinations and boosters was also recommended if group activities continued.
The OHA and ODE urged school districts to partner with health care providers to offer vaccine clinics and encourage eligible students to get their shots. The WL-WV school district has meetings scheduled with Clackamas County Public Health later this week and will listen to their guidance about continuing school as omicron cases increase.
Courtney Vaughn contributed reporting to this article.
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