▶️ Peer-to-peer youth crisis line helping teens work through issues big and small

Knowing how and where to find help for mental health issues is more important than ever and especially for our youth.

A service that’s trying to combat this very issue is Youth Line, a peer-to-peer crisis line that’s helping kids with issues big or small all across Central Oregon.

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom has more.


▶️ Parents express concern over distance learning drop in grades


Christie Otley is a parent of three boys.

One in seventh grade, one in third grade and a first grader with an Individualized Education Plan.

Otley said all of them are falling behind learning from home.

“They’ve had more hardships with learning and understanding the technologies, and the materials provided to them,” Otley said. “It’s just all around been very difficult and unfortunate.”

Susanna Abrahamson has two sons at Mountain View High School — Reed, a freshman, and Andrew, a junior also on IEPs.

“It is staggering,” Abrahamson said. “The bad habits that have been created that I’m so worried will continue with them.”

Both parents say their kids have lost motivation.

While none of them are currently failing a class, they are struggling.

“If we were to do a side by side comparison of all three of my kids from last year versus this year,” Otley said. “In my eyes, they’re all falling dramatically.”

“In the previous six weeks,” Abrahamson said. “My older son did have a D in his class.”

Lora Nordquist, Bend-La Pine Schools’ interim superintendent says this time away from in-person instruction could, and likely will, catch up with students.

“I think that we will see lagging learning in our students when we are able to return in-person,” Nordquist said. “That’s not just a few students, that’s many students.”

Nordquist says both school employees and teachers are reaching out to students who they notice aren’t doing so well, primarily those in middle and high school.

“We are looking to intervene more at all levels,” Nordquist said.

Both Otley and Abrahamson say they worry for their sons if distance learning goes on any longer.

“He’s just doing enough to get by,” Abrahamson said. “That’s never been the kind of student that he’s been.”

“They want to be in school,” Otley said. “They want to see their friends, they want to be able to talk to their teachers without a screen in their way or without technology in their way.”

Nordquist says exact numbers of how many Bend-La Pine students are failing will not be available until the end of the semester.

Draft of revised COVID metrics would allow Deschutes Co. schools to reopen K-5


All of Deschutes County’s elementary school students could be allowed to return to the classroom under new state COVID metrics expected to be released in the coming days.

That was the message Tuesday night from Bend-La Pine Schools Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist during a board workshop.

Nordquist said Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill revealed a draft of the new metrics during a call on Monday.

There are conflicting reports on when the announcement on the new metrics will be made, but it could come as early as Thursday.

And the draft could change.

But the new metrics Nordquist saw were “much less restrictive in terms of the number of case counts” and gave counties a range to consider instead of one number.

So instead of needing three straight weeks with 30 or fewer cases per 100,000 residents to reopen schools for grades K-3, the new metric would look at a range of the two-week average of cases per 100,000 residents.

“We haven’t abandoned the idea of getting our 4-5s in full time, but as long as those social distancing barriers exist that’s going be a challenge.”
– BLP Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist

Deschutes County does not meet the current metric, meaning the earliest K-3 students can return to the classroom is Nov. 30th.

“We meet the new metrics under the new guidelines to go ahead and start,” Nordquist said, adding that the new guidelines also allow for the return of 4th and 5th graders. (And 6th graders where they attend alongside the younger grades.)

But still up in the air is whether the new metrics will be a requirement or a recommendation and whether the state will allow districts to restart right away or wait until a specific date.

“We are absolutely committed to getting our students back into school as soon as the metrics allow,” she said.

Nordquist said the district will still stagger the restart by first bringing back kids in grades K-3 in a hybrid/alternative days model for a week or two.

Those students would then return to full-time, in-person instruction while kids in grades 4-5 return on alternating days in a hybrid in-person/distance learning model.

She said there simply isn’t enough space or staffing in the schools to bring back all the students full time and still abide by social distancing rules.

“We haven’t abandoned the idea of getting our 4-5s in full time, but as long as those social distancing barriers exist that’s going be a challenge,” she said.

And the COVID cases remain too high still to think about returning middle and high schoolers.

Nordquist also said if community spread of COVID continued and it was enough to keep kids out of schools into the new year, Gov. Kate Brown would implement tighter restrictions on businesses and close down higher-risk activities.

Gill acknowledged the health risks in bringing students back but said there were some additional negative health and safety issues to consider.

He told the group there were 1,500 fewer child abuse cases reported across the state in September 2020 than in September last year.

Many child abuse case reports start in schools with teachers or other trusted adults noticing a child who may be in danger.

Additionally, Gill told educators that after looking at areas where schools reopened across the world and U.S., the data showed schools weren’t a significant contributor to the community spread of COVID.


Deschutes Co. misses mark with COVID metrics; schools back to ‘Week Zero’

Deschutes County COVID cases shot up last week meaning Bend-La Pine and Redmond schools are once again at “Week Zero” in their efforts to get kids back into class.

The OHA recorded 75 cases in Deschutes County, which translates to 38.9 cases per 100,000 residents.

Counties need to have 30 or fewer cases per 100,000 people for three straight weeks before bringing kids back in grades K-3.

Bend-La Pine notified parents in a Facebook post Tuesday the earliest students could return to class now is Nov. 30th.

Not only did cases jump, but the test positivity rate for Deschutes County went up as well.

Deschutes County met the metric two weeks ago (57 cases or 29.5/100,000) providing some hope that a return would happen sooner than later.

But the latest data is another blow to many families and teachers who are eagerly awaiting a chance to get back to in-person learning.

Meanwhile in Salem, Gov. Kate Brown is working with education and health officials to possibly rewrite the metrics and reopen schools sooner.

Until then, local districts are at the mercy of their communities and how well they limit the spread of COVID.

Deschutes County has reported 1,132 cases and 13 COVID-related deaths since the onset of the pandemic.


▶️ Bend’s Newest School Officially Ready for Students

North Star Elementary School officially opened its doors Thursday night, giving students, parents and the community a peek inside Bend’s newest school.

Classes don’t start until next week, but the open house served as a celebration marking the end of summer and a new beginning for the 260 students who will call it home.

Central Oregon Daily’s Dalton Roth was there for the ribbon cutting and talked to parents about the new year ahead.

Tumalo Community School Now Accepting Pre-K Applications

Tumalo Community School is now accepting applications for the school’s afternoon Pre-Kindergarten program this fall.

The afternoon Pre-K program operates from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Classes begin the week of September 9th and will run throughout the school year.

“Tumalo Community School is proud to continue our Pre-K program this year,” said Justin Nicklous, Tumalo Community School Principal. “Participation in Pre-K classes offer a wonderful start to a child’s education and introduces them to their school community in a positive way.”

Students must be four years old before September 1, 2019 in order to apply to the program. Tuition is $225 per student monthly.

Registration closes Friday, August 30th.

For questions or more information about Tumalo Community School’s Pre-K program, please contact the school directly at 541-382-2853.

Tumalo Community School is currently open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


▶️ BLP Schools Finish Up Construction Projects Ahead of New Year

The start of the new school year is just a few weeks away now.

Several Bend-La Pine schools are gearing up for their students’ return by finishing up construction projects to enhance safety and create more innovative learning environments.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan has the story.


▶️ BLP Base Camp Helps Freshmen Gear Up for High School

Incoming freshmen are gearing up for their first year of high school and the Bend-La Pine School District wants  to make that transition easier.

Nearly 200 incoming freshmen are getting their first taste of high school this week as part of the district’s “Base Camp” program.

Local high schools opened their doors this week so the new students could get a chance to meet their peers and teachers – and learn the ins and outs of the school.

“If freshmen have a successful first year, they are more likely to reach graduation,” said Steph Bennett, coordinator for Base Camp. “Our goal is to make that transition from middle school to high school a positive and exciting next step.”

The free program, which is led by ninth grade teachers at each school, lasts two weeks and includes about 40-50 students each from Bend Senior High, La Pine High, Mountain View High and Summit High schools. Some students are invited to attend the program while others signed up last spring. Bennett says that the results from the 2018-19 participants are positive – showing that students who participated had better attendance, less discipline referrals and higher GPAs than a similar peer group.

“Our goal is for students to develop strong bonds with teachers, understand what they need to do to be successful students and ultimately walk into the first day of high school feeling confident and ready,” said Bennett.

At Mountain View High School Monday, more than 40 freshmen gathered in the school’s library, where they learned about the bell schedule, met with the activities and athletic directors, played a high school-themed guessing game and made connections with fellow students and key staff members.

“Ultimately we want them to show up the first day of school feeling comfortable and prepared,” said Brandie Ross, Spanish teacher and Base Camp teacher.



Moving In: North Star Elementary Teachers Set Up New Digs

By Meghan Glova
Central Oregon Daily News

As students soak up the final weeks of summer vacation, teachers are ready for school to be in session.

On Monday morning, teachers began setting up their classrooms at Bend La-Pine School’s newest elementary school, North Star Elementary.

“It’s going to be an incredible campus for kids,” said Allison Harris a new teacher at North Star. “Bend-La Pine has put every detail into their brains and really made this a school where kids are going to grow and learn incredibly.”

The new two-story school can hold up to six hundred students, and features twenty four classrooms, a media center, and a large outdoor field with two playgrounds. Located in north-central Bend, North Star will help with overcrowding at elementary schools in the northwest and northeast parts of town.

“It’s been a long process, I think construction and development has been well over a year now,” said Tim Burdsall with the school’s student services. “So the culmination of seeing those doors open on September 4th will be really exciting for the whole community.”

For North Star’s 250 new students, educators will focus on four key traits–including commitment, compassion, curiosity, and courage.

After teaching at Elk Meadow elementary for 13 years, Harris says she is eager to implement these character traits in the classroom.

“This is just an incredible opportunity, and I am so excited to just have the kids dashing through the hallways and finding their classrooms, and just learning this process alongside with me,” she said.

Between a brand new building and experienced staff, North Star Elementary gives students a place to shine.

“The kids are just going to feel so welcomed” Harris says. “And they’re just going to be smiling and beaming from the first time they walk through those doors.”

North Star Elementary will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 29th at 4:40PM to celebrate the opening of the school.

North Star Elementary – Bend’s Newest – Opens Monday

Bend’s newest school, North Star Elementary, officially opens on Monday with teachers moving in to begin setting up classrooms and prepping for the new year.

“This new school is designed with the educational needs of students in mind and I’m excited for teachers to begin to settle into their new classrooms as we look forward to welcoming new students,” said North Star Principal Kevin Gehrig.

The two-story school is situated in north-central Bend off of O.B. Riley Road. It will relieve overcrowding at elementary schools in northwest and northeast Bend.

North Star includes 24 classrooms, a gym, commons area and media center, and is based on the designs for Silver Rail Elementary School.

Construction of North Star is one of more than 150 projects that are part of the $268 million construction bond passed by voters in 2017. Hundreds of people have been employed to make the completion of this new school a reality. Thanks to construction of new schools and classrooms, more than 400 additional jobs are sustained in Deschutes County each year, according to IMPLAN economic data.

Community members are encouraged to save the date to join in a celebratory ribbon cutting and barbecue at the new school Aug. 28, starting at 4:30 p.m.