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Clatsop school supers give upbeat assessment of new school year so far

The superintendents of schools in Clatsop County are all giving an upbeat assessment of the start of the school year despite the increase in COVID cases. Meanwhile new data show Clatsop with the state’s lowest COVID infection rate among kids. KMUN’s Jacob Lewin has details: [Scroll down to listen]:

Despite fears that an upsurge in COVID cases would be keeping kids lots of kids home in this new school year, Seaside schools superintendent Susan Penrod says that has not been the case:

Attendance is great. Both students and families are excited to have kids back fulltime.”

At a joint news conference Wednesday, all of Clatsop County’s schools superintendents were upbeat with most schools back to full-day everyday learning. Schools are screening kids as they come in, doing contact tracing when there are cases and, as in the case of Astoria, notifying parents of any COVID cases in the district on the day that they become aware of the cases. They say there’s good compliance with mask requirements—with some pushback at the middle and high school levels.

Antivirus measures range from adding extra lunch periods to keeping the windows open on school buses to keeping careful seating charts to help with tracing. Bill Fritz is superintendent in the Knappa district:

Schools are the safest place in the community for children to be. The likelihood of COVID spread in schools is far lower than COVID spread in our communities at large.”

What’s going on in schools is likely playing a part in Clatsop having the state’s lowest infection rate among kids—about three percent over the past six weeks, although Fritz points out that some parents are sending sick children to school. In Warrenton schools, superintendent Tom Rogozinski says he’s seeing educational gains but being back in class is making a difference in kids’ social and emotional lives and there’s been an 80-percent reduction in kids being referred to social services over the past year:

There are situations in which students rely on their schools and their teachers to sort of help them out against some tough situations at home.”

Schools staff are required to be fully vaccinated by October 18:

For Astoria we are over 90%. And I was pleased, to be honest, pleased to see the large number of staff who got vaccinated based on this requirement. We weren’t sure how that was going to go.”

Superintendent Craig Hoppes.

The Astoria district will continue to operate an online academy that has attracted a hundred students. Knappa schools are also expecting a vaccination rate of over 90%:

Unfortunately to get there we will probably have a couple of employees who are making the decision to no longer be with us. We’re saddened by that. We value all of our employees but we also understand that people need to make individual choices.”

Superintendent Bill Fritz. Fritz adds that the districts do share a problem only partially drive by COVID: a shortage of school bus drivers. It’s possible that the national guard will be tapped to help.

For KMUN Radio, I’m Jacob Lewin.