▶️ Districts, teachers planning for online learning; promise a better experience



Hopes for a normal school year are diminishing by the day, and some Central Oregon school districts are coming to terms with the fact that face-to-face interactions may not happen anytime soon.

“It’s feeling more and more like we’ll be with most districts in the state and starting in a distance learning format,” Bend-La Pine Schools interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist said.

COVID has forced school districts like Bend-La Pine Schools to create a multitude of plans for in-person, distance or hybrid learning for students.

“We’ve had planning for all contingencies,” said Nordquist. “So it’s not like we have to start over again, but sort of rearranging some of the urgency and priorities.”

Nordquist says, they had hoped to have elementary school students, especially K-3rd grade in the classrooms full time.

“What the state did was have an exception for K-3, that is not as strict,” said Nordquist. “They definitely learn best in three dimensions.”

But as the start of the school year rapidly approaches, Nordquist couldn’t say whether students, K -3 or otherwise, would be able to do so.

“We don’t know for certain,” said Nordquist. “We have challenging metrics ahead of us.”

Deschutes County would need to cut its weekly COVID cases significantly to meet those exceptions.

“It’s feeling more and more like we’ll be with most districts in the state and starting in a distance learning format.”
Bend-La Pine Schools interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist

The Redmond School District was unavailable for comment today but sent this letter to parents Tuesday afternoon asking them to stay tuned for more information as they work to interpret Gov. Brown’s new health metrics.

Jefferson County School District Superintendent Ken Parshall said they’re focusing on a comprehensive distance-learning program for the fall.

He said staff would be better prepared than in the fall and will provide more resources to families including more hot spots and lap tops.

Everyone will work on the same platform as well, he said, possibly Google Classrom.

“Educators want to know what’s going to happen just like everybody else,” said Sarah Barclay, president of the Bend Education Association teachers union. “They need time to plan, they need time to prepare.”

Barclay says that while teachers want to be back with their students for face to face learning, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.

“There are some that feel safe and believe we need to get back in our classrooms now, and there are members out there that believe we should not be back until we have 14 days of no cases in Deschutes County,” she said.

But, Barclay says, they’ve been planning diligently for any and all scenarios, and online learning this fall won’t be like it was in the spring.

“In the spring, that was emergency learning, we did that overnight,” said Barclay. “We worked all summer to create a better plan for students if we need to go online.”

Though the wait can feel agonizing for some, answers, Bend-La Pine says, are coming.

“We’re looking at the data, and we’ll know by the beginning of next week what the school year will look like,” Nordquist said.


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