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700 Bend-La Pine students quarantined: Does the school district need a ‘Plan B’?

(Update: Adding stats on cases, quarantine, new dashboard number)

'We have a lot of kids at home right now'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend-La Pine School Board met Tuesday night to discuss the status of school reopening and reflected many of the questions -- and tension -- seen across the community as COVID-19 case numbers rise and Deschutes County returns to the "Extreme Risk" category..

Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist addressed the issue with the board. She told board members there had been 58 cases of COVID-19 among students in the past 10 days, which has resulted in about 700 K-12 students being placed in some form of quarantine, or about 5% of the total student body.

"I mean my feeling is, if our case counts don't start going down fairly soon, we might need to look at a Plan B," Nordquist said. "I'm not quite sure what that is, but we have a lot of kids at home right now." 

Board Member Amy Tatom also asked Nordquist if the tracking of case numbers in the district is correct. Tatom said many parents are complaining on social media about the transparency of actual case numbers.

School District Director of Safety and Communication Julianne Repman said positive case notifications should be pushed out immediately, but there could be a glitch in the spreadsheet, or it's not getting input correctly.

That issue apparently was resolved, as the number of cases in the past 28 days rose to 93 on the school district's dashboard Wednesday morning, including 20 cases at Bend Senior High, 12 at Summit High and 10 at Mountain View.

Repman added that as cases are rising, school nurses have become overwhelmed.

Board members Julie Craig and Amy Tatom also expressed their frustration with those in the "anti-vaccine" community, who they say have berated and threatened them for their decisions throughout the pandemic.

"We've been cussed at, we've been called horrific names, we've been threatened on numerous occasions over the last year," Craig said. "Frankly, I'm just so done with it." 

Tatom, who works as family nurse practitioner, says she's also tired of being disrespected and called names by community members for trying to make safe decisions.

"Being called a Nazi is not something that should ever be accepted in our society," Tatom said.

Tatom says she hopes parents can respect a child's personal decision to get a vaccine.

"If you do not believe the vaccine is right for your child, I hope you have faith in yourself and your relationship with your child that they're going to make a decision that you agree with -- or that you can understand why they're making the decision they do," she said.

She says she constantly hears and sees misinformation spread on social media, and even from her own patients.

"As someone who has to deal with that misinformation every day, like my patient today that said something so absurd about vaccines," Tatom said. "I said, Yeah, I've never heard of that. Let's look that up together.' We looked it up, spent five minutes, and couldn't find any evidence of it. He said, Well, I read that on Facebook.'"

"Cool, that's awesome," she said after a brief pause. "Thank you for undermining the health and well-being of our community."

Repman says the district will work to keep their tracking of cases updated as frequently as possible.

As of now, the district says they have no plans to change their current teaching model.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus
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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

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