Some McLoughlin students forced into virtual learning

Jan. 27—Hundreds of students at McLoughlin Middle School in Medford will go into virtual learning for the rest of the week starting Thursday.

In a message to families posted on the school's website, Principal Kalin Cross said the decision, impacting three "teams" of students — approximately 375 of them — was made due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19-related issues.

"We know this is an inconvenience and challenge for many families, and for that we deeply apologize," Cross wrote. "This decision is based on student safety and our ability to provide proper supervision for our students."

Students not included in those teams will be expected to come to campus, she added.

It is anticipated that McLoughlin will revert back to in-person learning for all students Jan. 31, according to Cross.

In the meantime, virtual student teams can obtain their coursework through the online learning platform Canvas, and attendance will be taken via Google forms, the principal added.

Leah Thompson, a communications specialist for the Medford School District, told the Mail Tribune on Tuesday that officials will be checking to see if the school has adequate staff to return to all in-person learning safely.

"This includes enough adults to teach classes and to manage common areas," she wrote. "We are able to calculate the amount of staff members that will be out based on quarantine dates. We will make that decision as soon as possible to give families the chance to adjust as needed."

Asked what the district says to parents of students who must report to school when others do not due to COVID-19 related issues, Thompson told the newspaper that student safety is a top priority.

"We are able to assure student safety by shifting some students to do their learning through Canvas Thursday and Friday and freeing up available staff for teaching and supervision elsewhere throughout the campus," she wrote. "If we had concerns about other teams being sufficiently staffed, we would have had them participate in the Canvas learning as well."

Thompson added that no other schools in Medford are in danger at this time of reverting to partial remote learning like McLoughlin.

"We are beginning to see a decline in staff illness and absences at the district, hopefully we are close to reaching the Omicron peak," she said. "In this situation, we saw a higher level of absences concentrated in one building."

Cross's letter reminded parents to screen their kids for COVID-19 symptoms and to not, under any circumstances, send them to school sick.

"Please help us continue in-person learning by not sending your student to school if they are sick or if they have been exposed to COVID-19," Cross wrote. "If a family member in the household has COVID-19, students should be quarantined unless they are vaccinated, have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, or the ill individual is fully isolated from the student."

Anyone who has questions can call McLoughlin at 541-842-3720.

The announcement about partial virtual learning comes after Ashland High School went into virtual learning near the beginning of the month and won't be expected to return to an in-person format until next Monday.

Butte Falls Charter School returned to in-person learning this past Monday after an outbreak in COVID-19 cases caused a two-week shutdown of campus.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.