Small Portland Catholic School Back to In-Person Sessions

Credit: Cathedral School | 5th grade Cathedral School student

PORTLAND, Ore. — As more school districts across Oregon figure out plans to bring more kids into the classroom, there are some schools that have already brought students back for full-time in-person learning.

Many larger districts in the state have complicated decisions to make when it comes to how to safely offer limited in-person instruction for students.

But for some smaller schools, like Cathedral School in Northwest Portland, the transition has been a little easier.

“We are opening up, but it’s going to be far from business as usual,” said Amy Biggs. She’s the principal at Cathedral School, a private Catholic school serving kids in Pre-Kindergarten to eighth grade who are now in class for full-day, in-person learning.

“We have everyone here Pre-K through eighth grade that has chosen to come. We still have a distance learning option for our kids at home,” said Biggs.

She said 81% of the 260 students enrolled are choosing to attend in person.

In the fall, teachers taught kids online from their classrooms. The school soon brought back its youngest kids for limited in-person instruction. The majority of those kids were already participating in the school’s daycare program and were familiar with the school’s COVID-19 safety protocols, which made the transition to full in-person learning easier.

This week, middle school students joined younger students, coming back for full-day, in-person school.

Biggs said the size of the school along with the state’s revised guidelines and metrics have been crucial to reopening.

“Small schools like Cathedral School, 260 kids, 30 or fewer staff members, we can do things in a safe way because of our size and we don’t bus. We have one class at every grade, so it’s really appreciated because the revisions have helped us open up.”

Biggs said a number of safety measures are in place.

“We are using three different entrances to the building rather than one entrance […] we’re taking everyone’s temperatures. We’ve got contact tracing where we’re recording everyone who drops the kids off and who picks them up,” said Biggs.

They’ve also got shields on students’ desks, which they’ve tried to space apart.

“We have places where they’re not quite six feet, but I’ve got the 35 square feet in the whole room and then the distance between kids is maximum extent possible,” Biggs said. “We’re adhering to all ODE [Oregon Department of Education] standards.”

Biggs said right now in their middle school classrooms, there are between 21-25 kids in the room.

Students have to wear masks too, something Biggs initially thought might be an issue.

“Our kids that have been home are so excited to be back at school that all of our safety precautions, they are willing to do and they are really good at policing each other. It hasn’t been a problem at all. They’re used to wearing a mask. They’re used to hand sanitizer,” said Biggs.

The only time those masks come off is during lunch. Students stay at the same desk all day while teachers of different subjects rotate in and out.

For bathroom breaks, groups of kids go at designated times.

“Every hour one of my staff members is going through the bathrooms and spraying them all down with the electrostatic cleaning sprayer,” Biggs said.

Kids are grouped together into cohorts for recess as well.

Beth Sanchez has two children who attend Cathedral School, one in kindergarten and the other in sixth grade. She is excited her kids get to go back to in-person learning.

“We’re ecstatic really. We’re hoping that all the schools can get there. I think it’s so super important for kids to be in person,” said Sanchez.

She said while her sixth-grade son was doing well with online learning, she became concerned about the lack of socialization with peers.

“They need to have that interpersonal connection,” Sanchez said.

She said her son told her there were a lot of rules to follow. With this being his first week back, Sanchez said her son is figuring out what he can and can’t do.

She expressed confidence in the school and Biggs.

Biggs said before kids even came back, she asked parents to be partners and to talk to their kids about what to expect.

“Let them know ahead of time, you’re not going to get up and walk around the classroom,” said Biggs.

“I can’t have them all sitting on the top of the slide in a big pile like the eighth-grade girls love to do.”

She said she’s continuing to ask families to keep social distancing and wearing masks.

You can find the source article here.

Oregon Announces Two-Week ‘Pause’ on Social Gatherings in 5 Counties

This past Friday, Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced new COVID-19 restrictions on five counties: Umatilla, Malheur, Marion, Jackson, and Multnomah. After several weeks of unprecedented spread, stricter measures have been placed since the initial “stay home, stay safe” measures were implemented in March. Though Oregon has been doing better limiting the spread, Brown says we need to go back to our offensive strategies against the virus. The biggest challenge is the increasing outbreak is not due to school or workplace gatherings, but small social gatherings and one-on-one meetings.

Due to the increasing COVID-19 rates, counties with exceptionally high cases will be put on a two-week pause for social gatherings, starting November 11th to November 25th. “Businesses in those counties are encouraged to have employees work from home when possible, restaurants and bars are asked to limit dining to outdoor seating or take-out whenever possible, and businesses are asked to cap their total capacity at 50” (Ross, 3). In addition, visits to long-term care facilities will also be paused and private social gatherings are asked to be limited. 

Governor Brown is frustrated at the number of Oregonians not taking restrictions seriously. Looking at the data, it is clear that not everyone is listening to the suggested guidelines. “Let me be very clear: For this two-week pause, please, please, please limit your social interactions to your own household,” Gov. Kate Brown expresses. If cases continue to rise, Brown will increase restrictions. 

The two-week pause is intended to be either a wake-up call or call to action, for those who aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously. If people do not change their behavior, COVID-19 will grow out of control.

Once a county has a rate of 200 infections per 100,000 residents, new restrictions will come into effect for two weeks or more. “There are separate metrics for smaller, rural counties. Currently, five counties — Umatilla, Malheur, Marion, Jackson, and Multnomah — have crossed the 200-case threshold and will be put under the increased restrictions” (Ross, 7). Washington, Baker, Clackamas, Union, and Linn counties are also seeing cases rise at a rapid rate and are on the border of being added to the pause list; OHA plans to reevaluate its numbers today.

It is important to remember that just because a county is not currently on the pause list, does not mean people should continue their lives as normal. 

These policy changes are also hoped to be reflected in social gatherings as well for all Oregonians. Previously, officials have raised concerns that looser COVID-19 restrictions in public could potentially result in people taking fewer precautions in their private/social lives. These new public restrictions are hoped to convince people to take more daily precautions.

“The new call for action comes as cases climb across Oregon, with a record of 805 new cases reported Thursday. On Friday, 770 new cases were reported” (Ross, 14). Oregon reported 3,542 new COVID-19 cases from the week of October 26th-November 4th; The highest number yet, 34% higher than the previous week. 

In terms of exponential growth, the rate is incredibly concerning. The numbers Oregon is seeing are far beyond what OHA expected, even in the worst-case scenario projected. The worst-case scenario presented in the new model assumed that transmission would rise by 5%, and Oregon would be seeing 520 newly diagnosed cases each day by November 19th. Increased numbers were expected in the past, but not this high. 

Oregon’s epidemiological models, predicting the increase of rates, also serve to predict hospital capacity needs; But with cases rising exponentially, models can be outdated by the time they’re published, posing additional challenges for public health officials who want to increase needed restrictions before hospitals are full, which may be inevitable.

Oregon officials think there may still be time to slow the progression of the pandemic, but with little ICU capacity left, results need to be seen fast. 


Agent Website Photos-KristaThis blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.

The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.

Arrival of COVID-19 Tests Provide Hope for Reopening Schools

A massive shipment of federal testing supplies could provide Oregon with its best chance to reopen on-site learning in schools. The federal government has promised to accommodate Oregon with 60,000 to 80,000 tests each week through the end of the year, allowing for better identification of new cases. 

While state officials claim there is no way the testing supplies would qualify for on-going testing at schools and a sweeping, immediate reopening, it has helped advance schools to pick back up.

The Director of the Oregon Health Authority thinks focusing these tests on driving down the prevalence rate will help get us to a sufficient environment in which we could start in-person learning for the long run safely. While there is optimism, there are prevalent challenges that could interfere with the return of schools; Public Health Officials worry the spread will increase during flu season, making coronavirus even more threatening.

As part of a commitment from the Trump Administration, they will be providing 100 million tests across the country; This is good news for Oregon as we will be receiving a large wave of tests. In response to the new tests coming our way, the first step will be expanding testing guidelines by advising testing for anyone exposed through close contact to a confirmed or suspected infection, even if the person lacks symptoms. While it is unclear how many Oregonians will be tested as a direct result of the change in criteria, most people infected come in contact with ten people on average who would now be eligible for examination.

“Oregon has relatively few coronavirus cases and deaths compared to other states. Oregon also has one of the nation’s lowest per capita testing rates, with only about 30,000 tests completed each week” (Schmidt 12). Patrick Allen, the Director of Oregon Health Authority, wants to see the state use at least half of the government’s share along with the state’s existing benchmark; This means at least 600,000 Oregonians should be tested weekly in the fall. The set expectation is doable and should use the testing equipment to our utmost advantage.

Development in testing called the Abbott BinaxNOW is an antigen test that provides results within 15 minutes through the nasal swab. It detects proteins on the surface of the virus rather than detecting the underlying genetic material. While this is convenient and inexpensive, the tests are not always accurate and could produce a higher rate of false negatives, giving infected people the wrong impression. It is important to stress the reality that false negatives are not uncommon, so you should continue wearing your masks and social distancing.

The state is reviewing its school reopening criteria and making changes within the coming weeks.

“The state is likely to keep requirements that a county must have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents in recent weeks to fully reopen to on-site learning, or 30 cases per 100,000 residents to reopen kindergarten through third grade” (Schmidt 26). If the state’s positivity rate is above 5%, officials may block full reopenings.

While distance learning is tough, it may be worse for kids and their families to be moving back and forth between closing and opening.


Agent Website Photos-KristaThis blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.

The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.

Drive-in Movies Coming to Portland’s South Waterfront for ‘Cinema Unbound’

The Northwest Film Center and Portland Art Museum will host “Cinema Unbound” drive-in movie showings at Zidell Yards. All guests will be required to remain in vehicles. This image is from a prior year’s event. Photo by Thomas Boyd

 “In these times of social distancing, “gathering” to celebrate art together as a community is difficult. One solution: the drive-in. The Northwest Film Center and Portland Art Museum have collaborated to offer a drive-in movie experience at Zidell Yards featuring both big-budget, and independent films for all ages.

The event hopes to bring families, artists, front line workers, partners across the city, and those who simply need a night out together in one place, but from the safety of their vehicles.

The film series offers stories from different places, people, and perspectives. “Blending cinema classics, indie favorites, new releases, non-fiction, animation, and art across genres and styles,” according to a recent release.

The series begins at 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, with a showing of “Kindergarten Cop,” (some of which was filmed in Astoria) and continues various nights into September. Here’s a partial list of upcoming showings. Movies begin at dusk:


Weekend 1 – Theme: Man Kind
Aug. 6: “Kindergarten Cop,” directed by Ivan Reitman (1990)
Aug. 7: “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” (new release) directed by Dawn Porter (2020)
Aug. 8: “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins (2016)

Weekend 2 – Theme: Ch, Ch, Changes
Aug. 13: “Milk,” directed by Gus Van Sant (2008)
Aug. 14: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” directed by Amy Heckerling (1982)
Aug. 15: “Do the Right Thing,” directed by Spike Lee (1989)

Weekend 3 – Theme: Black Lagoons, Bowie & Badass Women
Aug. 20: “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” directed by Jack Arnold (1954)
Aug. 21: “Labyrinth,” directed by Jim Henson (1986)
Aug. 22: “Knives and Skin,” directed by Jennifer Reeder (2019)

Weekend 4 – Theme: Living, Loving & Phoning Home
Aug. 27: “Sword of Trust,” directed by Lynn Shelton (2019)
Aug. 28: “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” directed by Steven Spielberg (1982)
Aug. 29: “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” directed by Stephan Elliott (1994)

There will also be a regional short film shown before each feature film. Sound will be sent into vehicles over a limited FM transmission.

Tickets are $35 per car, $45 for trucks, vans and SUVs, and $55 for premium seating. All tickets and concessions will be sold online, and in advance only. No walk ups, or night-of tickets will be available.

Organizers ask that participants agree to follow a list of guidelines for health and safety. They include:

  • Guests must stay in their vehicle and wear face coverings
  • Vehicles should include members of a single household only
  • Exiting vehicles will be allowed only to use the restroom. Those using the restroom must wear masks and follow posted signs on social distancing.

Zidell Yards is at 3030 S. Moody Ave., Portland.”

This article is written by Rosemarie Stein, you can find the original, here.