As the COVID pandemic rages and the start of school approaches, some families are enrolling their children in online classes.
But not nearly as many as last school year.
Last September, most students in the Bend-La Pine and Redmond public school systems started the school year via remote learning.
Then in the spring as schools reopened, most k-12 students resumed in-person classes with masks and social distancing – but about 3,000 Bend-La Pine students continued taking classes remotely.
“I feel like a lot of the families we are serving this year, online learning worked really well for their kids last year,” said Amy Tarnow, the administrator for Bend-La Pine Online. “We do have families that feel uncomfortable sending their kids back but I would say they are not the majority.”
About 400 students in Bend-La Pine and 230 in Redmond are enrolled in online classes this fall.
That’s about half as many who stayed in online learning programs last year.
“There are some students who enjoyed being online. I think there are some parents who continue to be a little concerned about the safety and health of their kids in school,” said Sheila Miller, the public information officer for Redmond schools. “Knowing there’s an online option and having seen how that works, maybe they are a bit more willing to check that out than in a pre-pandemic era.
Both school districts offered online learning before the pandemic.
The programs follow a regular school curriculum but offer some flexibility based on student and family needs.
“Our programs are challenging. Students learn a lot,” Tarnow said. “We do all we can as a program K-12. One thing we’ve done as a result of the pandemic is add staff to offer more support to families. We have a lot more systems in place.”
Students and families are welcome to try online learning programs and if they don’t work, switch back to in person instruction.
“We are asking families if they want to participate RSD Flex to do that for at least a semester or trimester or a full year,” Miller said. “You always have the option to go back and forth but we really think it’s important from a resource standpoint and a continuity standpoint. Students make connections with their classmates and their teachers right away and so moving back and forth doesn’t always work.”
Online learning programs are grade-appropriate and come in two flavors:
Daily classes with teachers or student-driven learning of standards-based curriculum.