WALLOWA — The Wallowa School District temporarily closed late last week and a portion of the district remains closed until mid-November after a diagnosis of COVID-19 was reported late Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Through Tuesday, Nov. 3, five cases of the coronavirus had been connected to the school district, according to Superintendent Tammy Jones, and the junior and senior high school students have been moved exclusively to comprehensive distance learning.

“Given what we know today, the earliest we could come back is Nov. 16,” Jones told the Chieftain Monday, Nov. 2.

In a Facebook post Monday, the district said distance-learning classes would be run from 11 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., with the exception of art classes, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. (junior high school) or 9 a.m. (high school).

Jones Tuesday added that grab-and-go breakfast and lunches will be made available for junior high and high school students beginning Wednesday, Nov. 4. Students/parents should call the office to place an order so staff can be sure correct amounts are available for pick-up by 9 a.m.

Wallowa Elementary School students were able to return to in-person teaching Tuesday, Jones said.

The district originally announced the first case and the closure on its Facebook page Oct. 28. Jones said when COVID-19 was confirmed, the district acted immediately.

“As soon as we learned we started gathering the contact logs, putting that together, getting that over to Dr. (Liz) Powers,” Jones told the Chieftain last week. “I gave her a starting list of names.”

Jones said she knew of several individuals who were tested the day following the confirmed case. By Oct. 30, there were three more cases of the virus. The fifth case was confirmed late Nov. 2.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 3, Jones was not aware of any additional cases past the five, though many people were awaiting results.

She added the community was largely receptive of how the situation was being handled.

“What I would say is people are appreciating the communication. They are taking things seriously. That’s why I know a lot of people have gone and gotten tested, both students and staff,” she said. “I think people are taking it serious.”

One of the steps taken in response was a series of deep cleanings of the school district throughout the weekend, and Monday, Jones said there had been three cleaning sessions done.

The cases led to the closure of Wallowa’s middle school volleyball game against Elgin and of the Cougars’ participation in a cross-country race over the weekend.

Jones could not disclose if it was students or staff members who had the virus.

“We’re not allowed to do that because of privacy,” she said.

She also encouraged people to carry a supportive attitude.

“As a community we have to look at that and understand — there’s no blame. There can’t be. There has to be support for one another.”

The five cases tied to the school are among 12 cases reported in Wallowa County since Oct. 29. Through Tuesday, Nov. 3, the county had 58 reported cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including two on Tuesday. Presently, 1,310 tests results have been processed, which is 18.3% of the population.

There were 46,460 reported cases in Oregon through Tuesday and 701 deaths attributed to the virus.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

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