Portland Public Schools socks away $20 million in reserves, rural teachers call in sick after student tests positive for COVID: The week in education

Letitia Denham

Portland Public Schools spent some $8 million to provide Chromebooks for all of its students in the spring and another $10 million on coronavirus-related expenses so far this school year. Still, the state’s largest district began this school year with more money than it anticipated through a mix of austerity […]

Portland Public Schools spent some $8 million to provide Chromebooks for all of its students in the spring and another $10 million on coronavirus-related expenses so far this school year.

Still, the state’s largest district began this school year with more money than it anticipated through a mix of austerity measures and federal grants. And it’s putting away about $20 million as district accountants expect Gov. Kate Brown’s 2021-23 biennium budget may include cuts to state education funding.

The district doesn’t anticipate allowing students back into classrooms until at least late January. Because so many of Portland Public Schools’ employees live in Washington and Clackamas counties, the entire metro area will need to see a consistent — and drastic decline — in the number of new coronavirus cases health officials identify on a weekly basis.

Here are some of the other major education stories from this week:

Coronavirus update:

The Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday that five new cases of coronavirus were detected at schools offering in-person learning the previous week. Three of those cases were students, two alone in the Coos Bay district. Another two cases were tied to school staff. The health authority’s findings represent a 75% drop in overall cases tied to schools, although infections overall reached record levels in Oregon this week — the state surpassed 500 identified cases in a single day Friday.

From the education reporter’s inbox:

The North Clackamas School District this week announced its students will not return to classrooms until at least mid-February. The school board voted to extend the district’s distance learning mandate through Feb. 9. The announcement puts the district, which enrolls students from Milwaukie to Johnson City and Oak Grove, in line with its peers in Portland and Beaverton, which will also keep students learning at home until 2021.

A Portland-area teenager took silver in the Olympics last month — the International Mathematical Olympiad, to be exact. Gopal Krishna Goel, who is home schooled, helped Team USA take bronze overall. Two years ago, Goel won a gold medal in the international physics competition.

Portland Public Schools is opening applications for meal deliveries as the district cuts on-site service at Sacajawea, Clarendon Elementary and Harriet Tubman Middle School. Officials said those sites saw low turnout for the service. The district will also open meal sites from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting Nov. 2.

Education stories from the Portland area:

The Lake Oswego school board passed two resolutions pressing for a return to classroom learning earlier rather than later. One of those measures urged Gov. Kate Brown to prioritize students disproportionately impacted by school closures. The other pressed Superintendent Lora de la Cruz to draft plans to allow in-person instruction for elementary schoolers, according to a release from the district.

Meanwhile, the West Linn-Wilsonville school board voted against a resolution urging Brown to reopen schools. The measure, which alleged the governor is basing school reopening guidelines on political pressure, was introduced by board members Dylan Hydes and Christy Thompson. The board rejected the measure 3-2. Asia Zeller of The West Linn Tidings has the details.

And across the state:

Douglas High School has closed once again after several teachers called in sick after news that one of the rural school’s students tested positive for COVID-19. The Winston-Dillard School District had previously acquired an exemption from the Oregon Department of Education allowing it to reopen its high school despite rising coronavirus case counts in Douglas County in September. Students in the same cohort as the one who tested positive must now quarantine for 14 days. Sanne Godfrey of the Roseburg News-Review has the story.

A high school party dashed Greater Albany Public Schools’ hopes to offer in-person instruction after three coronavirus cases were tied to the gathering. Nineteen students from West Albany, South Albany and Lebanon high schools attended the shindig. Another six students who were in close contact with the party-goers are also under quarantine, Superintendent Melissa Goff said. The Albany Democrat Herald’s Caitlyn May reports.

More education headlines from The Oregonian/OregonLive:

Robots are delivering food to Oregon State students; university heralds it as ideal for coronavirus pandemic

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies

Education coverage from other Portland-area media:

Hillsboro Online Academy sees dramatic increase in enrollment (The Hillsboro News-Time, subscription)

Canby in heated talks over political speech in schools (The Canby Herald, subscription)

Centennial, Gresham-Barlow diversifying teaching staff (The Gresham Outlook, subscription)

And across the state:

New Central Oregon Community College staffer to kickstart program benefitting local Black students (The Bend Bulletin, subscription)

Student hopes to lower voting age (The Ashland Tidings, subscription)

New delay for in-person classes as virus cases persist (The Seaside Signal)

In Salem, a handful of elementary students get in-person help with school (The Salem Reporter, subscription)

Families share struggles, triumphs of 2020 distance learning (The Madras Pioneer, subscription)

–Eder Campuzano | 503-221-4344 | @edercampuzano | Eder on Facebook

Eder is The Oregonian’s education reporter. Do you have a tip about Portland Public Schools? Email [email protected].

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