Local school districts adapt for families affected by wildfires

Umatilla High School

UMATILLA, Ore. — As if school districts weren’t dealing with enough obstacles at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, wildfires tearing through the region have caused additional complications.

The Umatilla School District announced on Monday that all absences would be excused Tuesday, after some residents had to temporarily evacuate and others were without power. In fact for a time, Umatilla High School was used as an evacuation site for families that were displaced.

Absences are excused today. If students are able to login, we are here and ready. If students are unable to login,…

Posted by Umatilla School District on Tuesday, September 8, 2020

“Once evacuations started we automatically started receiving requests about school today,” said Superintendent Heidi Sipe. “We understood this is a very stressful time for families, and usually there are two solutions to this type of situation – consistency for students or flexibility – and we just decided to offer both.”

USD is recording class sessions if students need to watch them later, and the district is offering multiple options for those lacking internet access. School staff have been checking out hotspots to students, and they’ve ordered more that should come in this week or next.

The district also has six areas in the community planned for Wifi hotspots. Three are currently up and running, and the others will be online as soon as possible. To find a list of hotspot locations, click here. Families can also access WiFi from any USD school parking lots or lawns.

Meal delivery was also somewhat disrupted by Monday’s weather, but Sipe said it’ll be up and running as usual as soon as possible as well.

“If there’s anything that COVID has taught us, it’s how to make a plan, how to change that plan and how to continue to repeat that process,” she said. “We’re all in this together and as families encounter obstacles it’s our job to support them through it, and we’ll continue to do that until we’re back in school, and back to in-person classes, which is hopefully as soon as possible.”

Another local school district affected by fires, wind and power outages – the Prosser School District. The district had already postponed the start of classes a week prior due to logistical difficulties with virtual learning. Classes were supposed to start virtually on Tuesday but due to damages and displacement caused by Monday’s weather, school will now start on Wednesday.

Prosser School District delays school