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2 Albany elementary schools move to online instruction

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Greater Albany Public Schools announced Wednesday that Waverly and Sunrise elementary schools will move to online instruction due to COVID-related absences. 

Waverly and Sunrise elementary schools in Albany will temporarily close, starting Friday, Jan. 14, with both schools resuming online instruction starting Jan. 18 after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday until at least Friday, Jan. 21.

Greater Albany Public Schools interim Superintendent Rob Saxton informed the community Wednesday that the closures were due to the number of staff and student COVID-19 related absences.

“GAPS has no plans to transition our entire district to remote learning,” Saxton wrote in an email that went out to parents and was posted on Facebook. “However, given the staff and student absences, decisions to temporarily move a school to online learning will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

On Wednesday, approximately 38% of students at Waverly were absent for a variety of reasons, including COVID-19 isolation and quarantine. Approximately 26% of students at Sunrise were absent on Wednesday, and between the two schools, about a quarter of all staff were absent.

Last week GAPS reported an all-time high of 169 confirmed cases of the virus. According to the district’s statement, more than 250 cases are expected this week.

“GAPS will continue to prioritize keeping students in physical classroom spaces,” Saxton wrote. “This priority has not changed. However, it is becoming clear that given the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, more GAPS schools may need to pivot to temporary online learning in the future.”

Most students brought home technology for online learning on Wednesday, but for those who did not, a drive-thru technology pick up event will be happening Friday.

Also starting Jan. 14, students will be able to access free, pre-packaged breakfast and lunches between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at both schools during regular school days. Transportation will be operating food routes for free breakfasts and lunches while the schools operate remotely.

When making the decision to close a school, Saxton said, GAPS considers the number of staff and students who test positive for the virus, the number of staff and students in quarantine or isolation and the number of staff absences that the school cannot cover with substitutes.

GAPS will reassess absences and illness numbers throughout next week to determine if students at the two elementary schools should continue online learning through Jan. 28.

Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_. 

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