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C.O. schools, parents preparing for students to return to classrooms this fall

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend-La Pine and Crook County Schools, parents)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- More bus routes, flexible learning options and alternative classrooms could be some of the changes families and students can expect this fall as part of Bend-La Pine Schools’ back-to-school plan. 

The district plans to bring its kindergartners to fifth-grade students back to school for in-person classes this fall, with social distancing guidelines.

The district says older grades will have a mix of in-person and remote learning, with everyone given the choice to do online learning only. (They call it A, B, C -- All-In, Balanced or Connected.)

After about three months of online-only learning, some Bend-La Pine parents say they are excited to hear their children could return to school classrooms for in-person learning this fall.

On Thursday, NewsChannel 21 spoke with Lora Nordquist, Bend-La Pine Schools’ interim superintendent, about why the district decided to let younger students back into the classrooms.

“One of the things we believe very strongly is our very youngest students learn best in three dimensions,” Nordquist said. “They need to move things, manipulate things, The second reason is that frankly, our youngest students, we play a very important child care role.”

She said the schools will not cut down class sizes or enrollment. However, they are looking at the possibility of transforming other spaces outside of the classrooms into learning spaces.

“We are measuring every classroom in the district and thinking about other spaces, like common areas outside the classroom, whether it’s the media center or cafeteria,” Nordquist said. “Do we need to use some of those as classroom spaces in order to meet the very strict requirements the state has for physical distancing?”

The district also plans to continue their meal service and transportation system, but with some changes.

“We’re looking at having multiple bus runs during the day, to keep the number of students on a bus to an acceptable level,” Nordquist said.

She said schools will continue providing hot spots for students without internet to make the online learning more convenient.

Michael Travis, whose son attends Juniper Elementary School, said he and his wife are glad the younger grades are being welcomed back into the classrooms, if all goes well.

“Learning remotely for my son and first graders is challenging,” Travis said. “We did some WebEx stuff in kindergarten, and I think that’s really difficult.”

He said if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, he and his wife may consider switching their first-grader to remote learning, instead of continuing the in-person instruction.

“I’m not too thrilled about being a stay-at-home teacher,” he said. “That was hard enough last semester.”

Other parents in Bend who spoke with NewsChannel 21 off-camera said they are also glad their children would be allowed to go back to in-person learning.

They said they believe social interaction with teachers and their peers is essential to their education.

Bend-La Pine Schools announced their initial back-to-school plan Wednesday, based on the latest state guidance -- with everyone aware things could change markedly, especially if the state's COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge.

The school district will be updating its return-to-school plans on August 1 and again two weeks later, unless the changing situation warrants earlier word. 

Click here to read the full letter sent out to Bend-La Pine families Wednesday detailing what the return to school would look like.

On the other hand, the Crook County School District said it plans a traditional start to the upcoming school year. 

It plans to welcome all students of all grades back on school grounds on September 8th.

Jason Carr, director of communications for the Crook County School District, said students will be given the flexibility of doing a hybrid of remote and in-person learning.

“Everything would be as normal as possible, given the circumstances, starting Sept. 8,” Carr said. “So if you want to go to school every day and be in the building every day with your teacher, you have that option.”

If students and families decide in-person learning is not the best option for them, Carr said they can work out a plan with the principal of their school.

Crook County currently has one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools, with a third opening in the fall.

Carr said as a small community, it is important for the district to gather feedback from families for their back-to-school plan.

He said the district’s still deciding on dates for taking public input next week.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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