Davis classroom

Davis Elementary School teacher Carla Bradford’s classroom is prepped with tables 3 feet apart from each other ahead of the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. The school, along with the rest of the College Place School District, made it through the first week without having to announce any changes to its in-person schedule.

Another school district has had to switch to distance learning due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The Dixie School District — an elementary-only district of fewer than 20 students — has joined Dayton School District student in grades 6-12 in distance learning, staff announced on Facebook Sunday, Sept. 5.

Dixie’s move is due to a single case among its staff. The Facebook post says the plan is to reopen Sept. 15.

Meanwhile, Dayton Superintendent Guy Strot announced that middle and high school students in his district will spend another week in distance learning.

Strot said the plan at this point is to reopen Monday, Sept. 13. The elementary school, which has not seen a lot of cases in staff or students, remains open for full-day in-person learning.

Middle and high school students have been in distance learning since Aug. 31.

Dayton and Dixie are two of the area’s districts to have already started the 2021-22 school year. However, several others have as well, and some have had successful opening weeks.

The Prescott School District began the year Aug. 23.

Superintendent Justin Bradford said this is an earlier start date than normal.

“We added nine additional days to our calendar this year to help mitigate the negative impact of over a year of remote and hybrid learning,” Bradford said. “We now have 189 days in our calendar, so we started a little earlier and will go a little later.”

Bradford said that so far, a return to distance learning isn’t necessary.

“We have successfully completed two weeks of school,” Bradford said. “Given the rate of COVID infection in Walla Walla County, which we continue to closely monitor, we are concerned about students, staff and families getting sick. We continue to all mask up, wash hands and stay home when we are sick.”

Bradford said positive COVID-19 cases in the staff, rather than students, would be the mostly likely reason for a return to distance learning.

“If that happens we will work on containing (a switch to distance learning) to the smallest number of students (and) classes possible,” Bradford said. “Schools across the country are struggling with shallow pools of guest staff. It is no different in Prescott, though we have hired a full time, on-site substitute coordinator who is serving as a guest teacher and paraprofessional.”

The College Place School District, which opened on Aug. 30, also completed a week of school without needing to consider a move back to distance learning.

“We had a great week,” Superintendent James Fry said. “We are battling some staff and student COVID cases, but nothing to push us back thus far.”

While Fry didn’t say the exact number of cases the district has, he said that number would be announced Tuesday, Sept. 7 on the district’s website.

The Touchet School District, as well as the Milton-Freewater and Athena-Weston districts in Oregon, has not announced any changes to its in-person format as of Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Meanwhile, the area’s largest district, the Walla Walla School District, as well as the Waitsburg School District, are set to open on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

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Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.


Jeremy covers education, as well as Dayton and Columbia County, for the Union-Bulletin. He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.

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