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Ashland High to go online, other Rogue Valley schools remain in-person amid increasing COVID cases

Ashland High School administration building.

Ashland High School will transition to distance learning until Jan. 31. School administrators announced the change on Monday afternoon as high numbers of students, teachers and staff are isolating because of exposure to COVID-19 amid a surge in cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant.

“Due to the increasing number of persons being isolated or quarantined due to COVID and the limited pool of available substitutes in all areas from operations and instruction to administration, we are moving Ashland High School to short-term distance learning on January 13,” wrote Ashland Public Schools Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove in a statement to parents on Monday.

Students who do not have electronic devices at home will be able to access the school’s computer lab. Transportation and food services will continue to be provided for those students. Extracurricular activities are postponed until Jan. 30.

COVID rates have gone up dramatically across Oregon since around Christmas. But despite increasing cases of the virus, most schools in Southern Oregon are choosing to continue with in-person learning as much as possible.

“We are not interested in, as a school district, going to full comprehensive distance learning unless all of our schools are unable to fill jobs or there are too many kids out,” says Bret Champion, the Medford School District superintendent. Champion says that quarantining decisions are being made on a classroom-level basis, rather than district-wide.

Districts in Medford, Grants Pass and Central Point are enforcing mask-wearing, social distancing and test-to-stay options to ensure student health and safety. Champion says that being in-person is critical to student success.

“Our goal is to ensure that as many students are in-person as possible and then ensure that there is a rich educational experience for those who are in quarantine,” he says. “That’s our secondary goal, but our first goal is to try and keep kids in school.”

In the Grants Pass School District, 144 students and staff are in quarantine. Over 200 students and staff are out in the Medford School District.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.