By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Redmond and Sisters students will start the new school year online, but officials are holding out hope for a return to the classroom before Thanksgiving.
Superintendents of both districts made the announcement Thursday in an email to parents.
Redmond Superintendent Charan Cline also said the start of the year has been pushed back two days to Thursday, September 10th.
“This was not our choice and it was not our desire,” Cline later told Central Oregon Daily News. “We’d like to get our students back in the class, back in the schools as soon as we can.”
Earlier this week Gov. Kate Brown issued a new set of health metrics counties across the state would need to meet before school districts could reopen to students.
Counties need to see fewer than 10 COVID cases per 100,000 people and have a 5% or less test positivity rate for three weeks in a row.
Deschutes County currently has about 54 cases per 100,000 and a 4.6% test positivity rate. It hasn’t met the metrics for the last three weeks.
“Our students’ return to the classroom will depend on our community’s ability to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following recommended health and safety practices.
We must all be in this, together.”
– RSD Superintendent Charan Cline
In fact, just one Oregon county – Wheeler, where there have been zero reported cases – meets the metrics.
There is an exception in counties that see COVID cases at 30 per 100,000 people, but that too seems to be an unlikely number to meet as cases trend up.
“Overall, there has been a 77% increase in new cases over the last seven days in Deschutes County,” Cline told parents.
The district will monitor the metrics and announce in October if it has any plans to return to an in-person or a hybrid model.
But that wouldn’t happen until November 2nd at the earliest.
“We are prioritizing the return for our K-3 students as soon as metrics allow to ensure that our youngest learners receive face-to-face instruction,” Cline said. “Our students’ return to the classroom will depend on our community’s ability to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following recommended health and safety practices. We must all be in this, together.”
Sisters Superintendent Curt Scholl said students will attend online for at least the first six weeks of the school year.
Bend-La Pine, the region’s largest school district, said Wednesday it hoped to make an announcement later this week on its plans for fall.
Meanwhile, some school districts across the state have all but scrapped any plans for a return to the classroom in 2020.
Cline said the new comprehensive online learning model “will be distinctively different than what was offered in the spring.”
Here’s what parents can expect:
- Using Canvas Learning Management System, students will log into one single portal for their daily coursework and communication with teachers, providing predictable schedules and routines.
- Redmond School District teachers will teach courses with graded assignments and course grades. Progress will be monitored and feedback provided.
- Redmond School District teachers will use a standards-based comprehensive curriculum by Florida Virtual School, which is specifically designed for online learning. RSD teachers will use this curriculum for both on-site and online learning to ensure consistency when students transition back to the classroom. Teachers also have the ability to customize the curriculum based on their students’ needs.
- Daily instruction from the teacher (live or recorded) will keep students strongly connected to teachers and classmates.
- Students will also have opportunities to get individual support from their teachers as needed.
- Clarity will be provided around attendance and participation.
- Greater family engagement and partnership.
“It’s going to be a pretty robust system and we’re really excited about it,” Cline tells us. “We’re not happy about going into this distance learning, but we think the product that we’re going to give our students is going to be much, much better.”
“With what we learned in the spring, the strength of our teaching staff and the new guidelines from ODE, we know that we will be able to deliver an improved version of CDL compared to last spring,” he said. “We are confident that whatever model of instruction we start the year with, the tradition of a strong school system in partnership with the Sisters community will continue.”
Cline provided links to videos for parents to get used to the new learning systems:
“Although this announcement is not what any of us wanted to hear, I hope that it can provide clarity and a plan for students, parents and staff moving forward,” Cline said. “This year will be unlike any other school year in history. We know that our students and families will have challenges but we are here to walk this path with you. Your partnership, communication and support are now more than ever, vital to our students’ success.