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C.O. students and teachers preparing for online classes

School districts have been told to begin distance learning on April 13; some starting early

(Update: Adding Associated Press info)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As schools across the country remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Bend-La Pine Schools students and their families are among the many around the state moving to online learning.

Facing an expected closure through the end of the academic year, schools across Oregon have been told to begin distance learning on April 13. Some schools are already handing out smart tablets and Wi-Fi devices to students.

Gov. Kate Brown previously closed schools through April 28, but because the coronavirus pandemic has not reached its peak in the United States, that closure is expected to be extended. That has been the case already in many states.

On Monday, Bend-La Pine families received a letter from Superintendent Shay Mikalson, with details regarding the continued teaching of their students online. It was followed by another letter sent on Tuesday, asking families for their patience and flexibility as the state information changes.

The letters say teachers will provide instructions for picking up the materials students need either in person, electronically or by delivery.

Although the letters don't specify whether assignments completed online will count toward a student’s final grades, a letter sent to families of Cascade Middle School students on Tuesday said they won't. However, the district says teachers will provide students with feedback on their completed work.

Janelle Rebick, the president of the Bend Education Association, told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday that one of the main concerns with the online learning method is making sure every family has access.

“If our main delivery mode is going to be remotely online, how do we make sure all our families have access to internet?” Rebick said. “Not all our teaching staff have internet, so how do we make sure they have tools they need?”

Rebick said online learning comes at a fiscal cost for educators as well. She said the school district has ordered about 1,500 Wi-Fi hotspots to deliver to students who do not have access to the internet. 

“The district has made a packet for the first two weeks of instruction for all of our K-2 students, and obviously that’s a printing cost we normally wouldn’t have had,” Rebick said. 

She said she hopes some of the state and federal government orders will help reimburse some of those costs. 

High school seniors who are looking forward to graduating in the spring are also feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with twin sisters Jayda and Siera Crawford, who are seniors at Bend Senior High School. They said they have been spending their free time in quarantine applying for college scholarships.

“We’re well on track and above to graduate, so I think it’s just now trying to keep ourselves going and not sitting around,” Jayda said. 

She and her sister take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes together for college credits. 

“It’s the college credit we want, so if they canceled the test and we don’t try to do anything, then we don’t have a chance to fight for the college credit,” Siera said.

The graduation ceremony is not the only major event put on hold. 

“I don’t think we’re doing prom anymore,” Jayda said. “We fundraise for our ‘Sparrow,’ and our big fundraiser for that -- I don’t even know if we’re going to do that anymore.”

The Sparrow Clubs program supports children struggling with a medical illness. This year, there are 56 Oregon Sparrows, and each child is adopted by students at local schools, including Bend High, that spend the academic year raising money for them and their family.

“I feel bad for our Sparrow because we had all these ideas to fundraise for them, and now it’s like we’re missing that chance,” Siera said.

After graduating, Jayda plans to attend Western Oregon University and major in elementary education, while Siera plans to pursue a degree in exercise science at Linfield College.

The school district said the online learning plan is not an “online school,” but rather a way for students to stay engaged in their education outside of the classroom.

Gov. Brown’s office is waiting to hear the results of the education department’s conversations with school districts and stakeholders about their needs before the governor makes any additional announcements regarding school closures, spokesman Charles Boyle said Tuesday..

“This is an unprecedented situation, and we recognize that educators are doing their best to make sure students’ learning experiences are disrupted as little as possible under extremely difficult circumstances,” Boyle said.

In Crook County, the school district is launching distance learning on Wednesday. Assistant Superintendent Joel Hoff put a video on the school district’s Facebook page to explain how to navigate the district’s website, with teachers’schedules, daily learning targets, a parents’ guide and links to additional resources on math, English, science, music and art and other subjects.

Google Classroom will be used for the vast majority of classes, Hoff said.

In Lake Oswego. an elementary school is handing out iPads to younger students and Chromebooks to students in the third grade and up, as well as Wi-Fi hot spots. The school district already had an iPad and/or Chromebook for each student that they used in class.

In Salem, schools are planning to start handing out Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots this week. The school’s technology and information services has ordered 1,000 hotspots to support internet access though delivery could take weeks.

Some support is expected from the federal government. The $2 trillion coronavirus relief law signed by President Donald Trump last week is to provide $13.2 billion to K-12 education nationally, Oregon educators noted.

Oregon is to get an estimated $32.6 million in a governor’s emergency education relief fund and an additional $121 million in an elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The state education department noted the challenges:

- The vast majority of educators have not taught online

- In families with several high school or junior high students, each student has six or seven different teachers and classes with one computer to share.

- For younger students, the success of distance education overwhelmingly relies on parents and adult family members to be active partners with teachers.

- In Oregon last year 22,215 students were homeless, which will require “creative strategies” for those students.

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The following is the latest letter from the Bend-La Pine Schools superintendent, Shay Mikalson, to families as of Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

"Good Morning,

Yesterday, I sent an email to families, students, and community members as we returned from spring break and collectively began to work, building-by-building, department-by-department, to prepare to provide the very best learning environment and options we can for our students during this unprecedented time.

This morning, I write to our Bend-La Pine Schools families to let you know that late last night the state of Oregon, through the Oregon Department of Education, announced a seismic shift in the way our state’s education system will operate into the future - from advising Oregon public schools to provide only short-term supplemental learning, to directing more substantive, graded, potentially credit-bearing distance education for all students. (We expect more details from the state on credit delivery over the next few days.)

To understand the context in which we’re operating, I want to remind you of all the shifts that have occurred over the last two weeks, including Oregon’s spring break:

  • On March 12, Oregon announced that our students would lose seven school days.
  • On March 17, Oregon extended the closure to more than a month of school days.
  • And last night, Oregon’s leadership stated that there is a very real potential that our students, like those in many other states, may not return to school this academic year.

This shift by the state from ‘supplemental education’ to ‘graded’ is what our students deserve. It gives us a pathway that we did not previously have to provide credit for the work they do now, and through the school current year. It provides a path to graduation for our seniors, gives our youngest learners the skills and encouragement they need to advance, and supports all learners with the teaching and learning they need to be successful.

Now, with new state direction, our teachers have the ability to do what they do best—connect with every student; be allowed to report on progress and provide official grades; and ultimately provide our students with credit-earning options in high school for the last term of this academic year.

Oregon’s Distance Learning for All effort, while it will present challenges, allows us flexibility from the state to continue teaching and learning during this closure. It also draws on our core value to know every student by name, strength and need – no matter the challenge at hand.

We will need the deep support, patience, and resilience of every member of the Bend-La Pine Schools’ team, our families, and our students, as we shift to a model that delivers students with an education from afar. We are fortunate that our work to date has positioned us to be in a better place than may others to make this shift, yet this is a herculean task. We accept it. Today is day one of this new effort.

We are committed and ready to take on this challenge - to turn our traditional brick and mortar education system on its head and temporarily deliver a bit of the classroom experience to you at home or wherever you are. We will be here to support you, and your student(s), and we embark on this journey, together.

I realize there are still more questions than answers, but I wanted you to have this information and an initial starting point for today without delay. As always, l will continue to follow up with more information as soon as it becomes available and as plans are determined. And if you haven’t already heard directly from your students’ teachers/school, expect that they will reach out in the next day or two. 

Thank you for your strength, your compassion, and your ongoing efforts on behalf of our students.

Best,

Shay Mikalson, Superintendent"

For the latest updates from the Bend-La Pine Schools, visit their COVID-19 webpage.


Author Profile Photo

Rhea Panela

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

Comments

3 Comments

      1. And? That has NOTHING to do with calling out our politicians….which the media refuses to do. Many things are changing, because spineless people refusing to call out crooked politicians in a time of crisis

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