James Akers LHS freshman academy-1.jpg

La Grande High School teacher James Akers leads a class at Freshman Academy on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. 

UNION COUNTY — The impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the La Grande School District is dropping dramatically.

The school district’s latest statistics, which reflect reports made to school district nurses, indicate that a total of 40 students missed class during the week of Oct. 4-7.

The numbers reflect students who missed time due to COVID-19 symptoms and close contact with individuals believed to be COVID-19 positive. The student total is down 49% from the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 when 79 students missed class.

“This shows that our risk mitigation strategies are working,” said La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza, who was referring to district and state rules requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing in schools.

The superintendent said the downward COVID-19 trend will help the school district stay open, allowing it to continue providing in-person instruction and many activities for students.

Mendoza said the recent drop is a welcome turn on the difficult road La Grande, like all school districts, is traveling.

“We have had surges and spikes. Now we are in a calm period. Hopefully we will stay in it for a long time,” he said.

Of the five Union County school districts outside La Grande, none have more than one positive case of COVID-19 except Elgin, which has three. Elgin has two students and one staff member out after testing positive for COVID-19. It also has 15 students who are quarantined due to close contacts, according to Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif.

The Imbler School District has no students or staff out with positive cases, but it does have four students absent because they are in quarantine due to close contacts. The Imbler School District’s COVID-19 situation has improved significantly since mid-September when it had close to 20 students being quarantined due to close contacts.

Imbler School District Superintendent Doug Hislop is delighted that the number of students out now due to COVID-19 is down and hopes as few students as possible will be absent from school in the future because of it.

“When students miss school, they are missing out,” he said.

Hislop said regular attendance is critical because one never knows which day they attend will provide them with that moment when something a teacher or classmate says triggers a sudden understanding of a concept they may have been struggling to learn.

The Union School District has one staff member out after testing positive for COVID-19 and four students absent because of close contacts. The Union School District has not had any COVID-19 spikes this school year.

“We feel fortunate that COVID-19 has not had a huge impact on our student population,” said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells.

The Cove School District, according to superintendent Earl Pettit, has two students out due to close contacts. No students or staff, however, are out due to positive COVID-19 tests.

No students or staff in the North Powder School District are out due to COVID-19. North Powder Superintendent Lance Dixon said that nobody has missed school in his district due to COVID-19 since Monday, Oct. 4. Dixon believes his school district is benefiting by following the state’s risk mitigation strategies, which include requiring all students to wear masks.

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Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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