WARRENTON — The Warrenton-Hammond School District closed school buildings Friday following an outbreak of the coronavirus among workers at Pacific Seafood.
While none of the new cases reported at the seafood processor have been traced back to school campuses, Superintendent Tom Rogozinski wrote to parents Thursday afternoon that “the high volume of cases means that many of them are still being traced.”
Many of the cases are being traced back to Warrenton and Hammond residents, he noted in a phone call with The Astorian on Thursday.
The Pacific Seafood plant employs a mix of seasonal and year-round workers.
The closure of school district buildings and facilities will impact sport practices, preschool and after-school programs, as well as community child care offered through the district. All students began transitioning to distance learning on Friday.
School district campuses, offices and facilities will be closed through at least Oct. 9.
“The district will evaluate the situation as it develops,” Rogozinski wrote. “We will remain in contact with you over the next two weeks to update you on the status of our schools and to let you know if the closure will extend beyond Oct. 9.”
The school district had planned to begin the school year in September with only students in kindergarten-through-third grade on campus and other students learning remotely. But the district abruptly pivoted ahead of the first day of school and decided to bring in higher grades several days a week for in-person instruction.
State and county metrics tracking the disease in the community had improved, allowing the school district to bring students back earlier than originally planned. But the move triggered concern among some teachers and staff who said they were caught off guard by the decision.
At the Knappa School District, the increase in virus cases signaled a change in operations, as well.
Only the school district’s youngest students — kindergarten-through-third grade — were meeting for in-person classes. But the district announced these students would begin shifting to distance learning effective Monday.
The last day of regular, in-person instruction occurred Friday. The school district planned to distribute Chromebooks to the students and prepare them for the shift ahead of Monday.
Beginning Monday, the school district plans to open two day care centers for these age groups to provide assistance with their school work. Care will be free and the centers will be staffed by district employees who will help students with their lessons.
Administrators at the Astoria School District are evaluating the situation but at this point have not decided whether a change in operations is necessary, Superintendent Craig Hoppes said Thursday afternoon.
The school district opted for an online-only start to the school year with only teachers and staff returning to buildings.