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Butte Falls Charter School goes remote for one week

Back to school, 123rf.com
The school cited high COVID-19 cases and exposures in its reasoning; will re-evaluate situation next week before decision on return to in-person learning.

Due to the number of students at Butte Falls Charter School who have tested positive for COVID-19 or believe they have been exposed to the virus, the institution announced it would flip to at-home learning for at least one week.

Dr. Phil Long, the charter school’s superintendent, shared details of the temporary closure in a letter Monday, saying on-campus instruction would not resume until at least Jan. 18 and all sports, field trips and after-school activities would be canceled for the same time period.

“I realize this situation is one that we all have been working hard to avoid,” Long wrote. “For the safety of all, however, we must take this immediate action or risk a much larger public health problem.”

Next Tuesday families will be notified as to whether it is safe to return to in-person learning, Long added.

Until that time, students attending grades 4-12 would be sent home with Chromebooks, or learning packets for those in earlier grades. Students with computers were expected to be able to bring the equipment home with them the night of the announcement, Long noted, while learning packets might not have gotten to students until the day after.

“We will plan to run our temporary online school on a similar schedule as when we are on site,” Long wrote. “Please make sure your student is awake and dressed and ready to join their classmates at the regular starting time for school.”

The school has approximately 230 students in grades K-12, and Long’s letter addressed the coronavirus outbreak situation that had forced remote learning.

On Monday, several students left school midday after testing positive for COVID-19. That was coupled with an absenteeism rate of over 23%, with most of those call-ins “due to symptoms that align with COVID-19 or because the students have been exposed to someone who has” the virus, according to Long

“Because we had students on campus at several grade levels test positive, we believe that many other students may have been exposed to COVID-19,” the superintendent wrote.

The Mail Tribune reached out to representatives from several other school districts on Tuesday and they did not indicate imminent plans for distance learning.

Butte Charter’s announcement came shortly after the Ashland School District announced it Ashland High School would go virtual for the next two weeks, and one class in the John Muir Outdoor School would do the same for the remainder of the week and hopefully return after the MLK holiday. In addition to those decisions, the district canceled all winter sports, extracurriculars and activities until at least Jan. 31.

At the start of winter term, the Oregon Department of Education had told districts throughout the state that a likely uptick in coronavirus cases from now until February would cast a “serious threat” to in-person learning.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.