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A classroom at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton sits empty on Aug. 13, 2020.

PENDLETON — A staff member at Sunridge Middle School, Pendleton, has tested positive for COVID-19, Pendleton School District Superintendent Chris Fritsch said in an Tuesday, Oct. 6, interview.

The day before, Fritsch emailed employees to inform them of the development, adding that Umatilla County Public Health contact tracing determined six Sunridge employees had extended exposure to the staff member.

As a result, the exposed staff members will quarantine at home for the 14 days following exposure. Fritsch said none of the exposed employees are displaying systems or will be required to take COVID-19 tests.

Fritsch said no students at the district’s day care program were exposed to the staff member and the program will continue to operate as usual.

The district had intended to begin limited, small-group education in-person starting on Oct. 7, but that is now delayed indefinitely while the district consults with the public health department.

Along with most other schools in Oregon, Pendleton School District has started out the year with distance learning. Although teachers are doing their lessons online, the district requires most staff to perform their duties in the empty school while still observing social distancing guidelines amongst each other.

“This is a good time to remember that you should have a face covering on when entering and exiting the building as well as when you are moving within the building or in a room when others are present, maintain at least a 6 (feet) distance from others and wash your hands frequently,” Fritsch wrote to staff in the Oct. 6 email.

The positive case in Pendleton schools comes as the state is mulling relaxing its standards to resume in-person teaching this school year.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen told media on Oct. 6 that the state may do away with the requirement that Oregon needs test positivity rate below 5% statewide before allowing more full reopenings. But OHA would likely keep the countywide requirements in place, a bar Umatilla County hasn’t met yet.

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