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School Campuses Closed for the Year 

Gov. Brown's new order means distant learning is the name of the game—though access issues continue

Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that public school campuses will remain closed through the end of the school year, in a continued effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Brown's earlier order had schools closed only through the end of April.

At Bend-La Pine Schools—along with many other districts—learning has largely moved online—though school leaders are emphasizing that it's "distant" learning, rather than "online" learning.

Students meet with teachers through the WebEx platform, using their school-provided iPads or through other online devices. Teachers have been supplying learning packets for students—especially for those in the younger grades. Largely, parents—many who are juggling their own work-from-home scenarios or who continue to work outside the home—have taken on the task of ushering schoolwork along. It's a new landscape for many, and now we know that it's not ending anytime soon.

click to enlarge The entrance to Summit HIgh School. - BEND-LA PINE SCHOOLS
  • Bend-La Pine Schools
  • The entrance to Summit HIgh School.
Superintendent Shay Mikalson sent out a letter to families Wednesday afternoon, saying:

"We know many of our families are experiencing challenges and hardships during this unprecedented time. Every day seems to bring a new normal and those changes can be stressful for us all. Please remember this one unwavering fact: we are in this together, for as long as it takes. We care deeply about the well-being of each and every student. Please reach out and know that we are here to serve.

"This year is also changing for our seniors. Gov. Brown also announced a plan surrounding graduation requirements. We are still digging into her recommendations, but in brief, here is our commitment: the closure will not impact out seniors’ ability to graduate this June. Our high schools will be reaching out directly to all of our seniors with more information. The extended closure also means that proms, field trips, graduations, award ceremonies, and simple classroom activities will look and be experienced differently. We are working to reimagine these experiences and want all of our students to have the opportunity for connection, belonging, and optimism. We plan to invite our student leaders to join in planning efforts and look forward to sharing details for these experiences in the near future. We do know that in-person graduation ceremonies will change to virtual ceremonies and/or be delayed. A final decision related to graduation ceremonies will be shared by the end of April.

"Families in need, please reach out to our Family Access Network advocates, who are working tirelessly to personally connect families to the resources they need. You can find their contact information, as well as information on other resources on our Families in Need webpage. We know, too, that this time is stressful not just for adults, but for students of all ages. Take a moment to visit our Student Mental Health webpage and review some of the many resources that are accessible anytime."

The Oregon Education Association, the union representing over 48,000 public education employees in the state, weighed in soon after the announcement, saying:

“OEA applauds Governor Brown’s decision to prioritize the safety of students and educators by extending the closure of Oregon’s K-12 public school for the remainder of the academic year,” said OEA President John Larson. “However, it remains critically important that Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Education release guidance for districts that truly prioritizes equity in the distance learning that will take place while schools are closed.”

With some students—especially those in rural areas—lacking access to the internet, school districts have been faced with a difficult dilemma of how to continue educating students. Bend-La Pine Schools is offering free wi-fi hotspots for students without internet at home—but in districts such as Crook County, some rural students' homes lack access to any internet service at all. To get around that, Facebook donated 255 Chromebooks to the Crook County School District March 27. The district, meanwhile, has set up a number of wi-fi hotspots for students to access the internet. Students can also obtain wi-fi when parked near any Crook County school.

See all our Coronavirus coverage at our Coronavirus HQ.

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.
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