District Welcomes Students Back to School
(Umatilla) – The Umatilla School District welcomed back more than 1400 students to its school buildings on Monday, August 30 for the first day of the 21-22 school year. This year, Umatilla School District has 1,443 students enrolled, an increase of 30 students from last year’s enrollment.
Superintendent Heidi Sipe said teachers and staff are very happy to welcome students back to full-time, in-person instruction this fall after the past two disrupted school years. “I was excited to see students back in classrooms today. There's just something special about the first day of school, and it was fun to see students and staff happily greeting each other once again,” Sipe said.
Sipe said the district has many health and safety measures in place to reduce exposure to COVID-19, including state-mandated face masks worn by everyone, three feet of physical distancing and seating charts. Regular cleaning and sanitizing of high touch areas is being done in all buildings, students wash hands frequently and students who become ill are offered on-site testing with parent consent. “On the first day of school, our students did really well wearing their face masks, and we had to give very few reminders. We continue to work diligently to do everything we can to ensure our students stay in school this year,” Sipe said.
According to a district survey, 80.3% of district employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, 11.5% are planning to get vaccinated and 8.2% plan to apply for a vaccine exception. Those granted exceptions will be tested weekly and will wear additional PPE to help prevent COVID spread. Sipe said the district is not worried about losing employees due to Oregon’s vaccine rule for all who work in schools as most employees with concerns have already reached out and worked through a plan of action.
Another tool the district is using to inform students and their families is a dashboard of known COVID-19 positive cases in its schools. The dashboard will be published every Friday on the Umatilla SD website and Facebook page so that parents know if and when cases have occurred. “We want to provide as much information as possible to help our families make informed decisions for school,” Sipe said.
Finally, the district’s STEAM Academy after-school program will start on Monday, September 13, and the brochure of available classes will be published and distributed soon.