Nyssa School District

This photo shows the gym at Nyssa High School.


Starting on Monday, kindergarteners in Nyssa School District have returned to school.

The kindergarten class will be in school in groups of 10 for two hours per day, which allows the school to bring them in under the Oregon Department of Education’s guidance for limited in-person instruction. This is a model similar to what Adrian Elementary School is currently doing, with a small enough grade making it easier to bring all the students in the building at one point.

“Our teachers and staff in all grades and subject areas have worked diligently to make online learning meaningful and powerful, and we appreciate these efforts,” said Superintendent Darren Johnson in a statement. “We also recognize the importance of providing learning strategies and human connections that are vital to a student’s development and that can only occur in person, especially for our most vulnerable students. We have worked closely with the Oregon Department of Education and the Malheur County Health Department to ensure our community and staff that we are following all protocols for keeping staff and students safe.”

Nyssa School District has been open to limited in-person instruction since mid-September, but it has been mostly for special education students.

Correction to data

On Oct. 7, Oregon Health Authority posted its first “Schools with recent COVID-19 Cases” during its weekly report. In the report, it showed that Nyssa School District has had 10 staff members or volunteers test positive for the virus, with two students also testing positive. The numbers were broken down by schools, with the elementary school listing one student and one staff/volunteer, the middle school having no students and four staff/volunteers, and the high school having one student and five staff/volunteers test positive for COVID-19. The most recent onset for all three schools was on Sept. 30.

Four Rivers Community School was listed with having had four cases of COVID-19 among staff or volunteers with no student cases.

On Friday morning Four Rivers Superintendent Chelle Robins confirmed that the number published by OHA was correct, but that all four of those have since recovered. Robins said there are no active cases of COVID-19 at the school. In OHA’s report, the most recent onset case at the school was on Sept. 20.

On Friday afternoon, Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe told the Argus Observer in a phone interview that the numbers from OHA were incorrect for Nyssa School District.

Poe said the numbers for Nyssa Elementary School were correct. However, the numbers for the middle school and high school were wrong. Poe said Nyssa Middle School has had no students and one staff/volunteer test positive while the high school has had one student and four staff members/volunteers test positive.

Poe said the error in the data was due to having four staff members attributed to the high school and the middle school, who were counted twice.

Despite the change in the positive COVID-19 count, Nyssa School District still has eight total cases which is the highest count of any district in the state that is listed on OHA’s weekly update.

As OHA continues to publish school numbers, with many local schools bringing small groups of students back to the classroom for limited in-person instruction, Poe said getting the numbers correct is “an issue ongoing, so we have to stay on top of it.”

Malheur County will need to have fewer than 30 positive cases in a three-week period (with fewer than half of those cases in the last week of the period) and a test positivity rate less than 5% in order to reopen the schools.

In the last three weeks, Malheur County currently has a three-week COVID-19 count of 248 with a test positivity rate of 22.5%. While those numbers are far above where they need to be to reopen schools, In the past two weeks the county has had weekly counts of 64 (week of Sept. 27) and 83 (week of Oct. 4), which are the two lowest weekly counts since the state started tracking weekly counts following the week of July 19.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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