SALEM, Ore. (AP) — 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 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.
“Our students may not come back through our school house doors this academic year,” Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, told school superintendents and principals in an email Monday night.
“We now have a moral imperative to meet the changing nature of the pandemic and evolve our approach to serving our children,” Gill wrote.
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, her 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, a high-desert region in Central Oregon, 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.
Also Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced two new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to at least 18. Oregon also reported 84 new cases of COVID-19, for a state total of 690.
In one fairly affluent Portland-area school district, 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 Lake Oswego 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.
Andrew Selsky is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky