LA GRANDE — Rising COVID-19 numbers in the La Grande School District are bringing back restrictions.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 18, the district will move from its current low-risk category — under its communicable disease plan — into its moderate-risk category in an effort to curb the infection rate among its students and staff, according to a La Grande School District press release.

The change will mean that recesses will be organized so that children will only be with students in the same grade level, students will be seated in classrooms based on seating charts, physical distancing will be kept at 3 feet or more to the maximum extend possible, screenings of staff and students will be reintroduced and visitors and volunteers will not be allowed in schools.

The school district reported that between Tuesday, Jan. 4, and Wednesday, Jan. 13, it had more than 150 COVID-19 events. The school district defines an event as when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, has a close contact with someone with COVID-19 or has COVID-19 symptoms. Eighteen of the school district’s Jan. 4-13 COVID-19 events involved staff members.

In a Jan. 13 press release, Mendoza said the move into a higher risk category and increased restrictions is necessary due to the increase in infections in the district and because “projections by the state of Oregon and Union County demonstrate recent increases in cases are the beginning of a strong surge.”

Uptick in numbers

The school district’s latest weekly statistics show that 37 students and two staff members missed school during the week of Jan. 3-7, the first week back after the holiday break, because of positive COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with those who have COVID-19. This was up from the week of Dec. 13-17 when five students and no staff missed school because of COVID-19 during the last week of school in 2021.

During the week of Jan. 3-7, one staff member from Greenwood Elementary School missed school because of COVID-19, and the other staff member was from La Grande Middle School. This was the first time in 11 weeks that any staff members had missed work days at school because of COVID-19.

The school district’s latest statistics also indicate eight students — three from Central Elementary, two each from Greenwood Elementary and La Grande Middle School, and one from La Grande High School — missed school after testing positive for COVID-19.

A total of 24 students, according to the Jan. 3-7 statistics, were out because of close contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive. Seven students were from Central Elementary, six were from Island City Elementary, five from Greenwood Elementary, four from La Grande High School and two from La Grande Middle School.

Five students were out because of primary COVID-19 symptoms — two each at Island City Elementary and La Grande Middle School — and Greenwood Elementary had one student out.

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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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