WALLOWA — The Wallowa School District is moving its junior high and high school students to comprehensive distance learning the rest of the week, it announced on its Facebook page late Wednesday morning, Jan. 19.
In the post, Superintendent Tammy Jones said the district is short four teachers and is struggling to find substitutes to fill classes in grades 7-12, attributing the reason to a rise in COVID-19 cases, "along with colds, flu and other illnesses," she wrote.
As a result, she said, the district plans to move grades 7-12 to the virtual learning set up on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21. Students in the elementary school will continue to learn in person, she said.
"Students will work on registration for their next-semester courses, selecting electives and check in on course completion for the current semester. Attendance will be taken on these days," she wrote. "In addition, all seventh- through 12th-grade students will log into each of their classes in Google Classroom and complete assignments necessary to finish the term. Some classes will include the final exam as a take-home final."
Jones said in an interview later Jan. 19 that although past COVID outbreaks have forced the entire school to go virtual, this is the first time a shortage of faculty has forced a shutdown.
“When you have a number of teachers out and there’s no subs, you have to go virtual,” she said. “That’s what we have to do.”
The school has 10 secondary teachers in total for the approximately 80 secondary school students, she said. One resigned early this month and three others are down “with a variety of things. … There’s a lot of crud going around.”
The secondary school tried to make do by having teachers teach classes out of their subject areas during what should have been their prep hours.
“We’ve had Mr. (David) Howe teaching, too,” she said of the high school principal.
Jones said she hopes to have the school back in regular operation by Monday, which is the beginning of the new term.
“Right now, we think if we can get through Thursday and Friday, we’ll be good for Monday,” she said.
Jones emphasized that if any students are having difficulties with the virtual learning, they can come to the school and can work in library.
“It’s not like the school’s closed,” Jones said.
Those with questions are encouraged to call 541-886-2061.