The small high school in the eastern Oregon town of Wallowa is shutting down for two weeks due to positive COVID-19 cases. The decision moves students in grades 6-12 back home, to resume distance learning, while elementary students may continue learning in-person.
Wallowa High School has 105 students, according to state enrollment reports. All six of the cases are students, according to reporting by eastern Oregon news outlets, including the Wallowa Chieftain newspaper.
School officials say that because of extensive contact tracing and quarantines, school for secondary students will shift online through May 11th. In a Facebook post on April 27, the Wallowa School District pointed to a “community prom” as a possible source of the outbreak.
“Many Wallowa county students attended this event, along with community chaperones,” the April 27 post read. “This afternoon we learned that a number of individuals attending the prom have tested positive for COVID-19.”
At first, Wallowa school officials announced plans to continue in-person learning for all students. But in a Facebook post two days later, the district announced it was closing the high school.
“Given the timing and the numbers of contacts that local health officials will needing to contact, we are immediately closing our high school,” the April 29 post said.
Across the state, numerous students have been subject to quarantine as schools have reopened school buildings and coronavirus outbreaks have continued. The Bend-La Pine Public Schools have been particularly hard-hit with as many as 700 high school students quarantined due to close contact with COVID-19 cases.
The Oregon Health Authority’s latest report counts 245 public and private schools reporting at least one positive COVID-19 case. The vast majority of those schools have seen just a handful of cases. Around 40 schools - mostly high schools - have six positive cases or more, like Wallowa High.