Classes Resume in Canby, Amid Coronavirus, Wildfires

It may go down as the weirdest first day of school in Canby history. Delayed half-a-dozen times, first because of Covid-19, then because of a series of historic wildfires that broke out across the region the night before the first day of school.

Though it was the sprawling infernos in rural Clackamas County that would come to dominate the news cycle, it was a smaller blaze in urban Oregon City that most impacted Canby schools on that first day.

A fire damaged a fiberoptic cable that delivers internet to the Canby School District — a fairly critical disruption for a new model built around delivering the bulk of its instruction online.

After that, the first day of school was repeatedly pushed back because of escalating evacuation zones and hazardous air quality from the fallout of the largest wildfires the county has ever seen.

Finally, school began on Thursday, Sept. 17. No student left their home. Some — still evacuated — weren’t even at their homes. They connected with their teachers and each other virtually, through Google Classroom on district-issued mobile devices.

It was — as we said — pretty strange, all told. But the resiliency of kids was on full display.

“We’ve averaged 90% attendance for the first two days,” said Canby High School teacher Bob Hammitt, a figure that was later confirmed by Principal Greg Dinse. “We have many students that are currently in another state, but are still finding a way to attend.”

Hammitt told of a student who was “a little late” on day 2, because her family’s evacuation shelter doesn’t have WiFi, and she had to drive 30 minutes to a cousin’s house to get the internet.

“Yesterday, a group of students logged on from an RV park in Washington they evacuated to,” Hammitt said Friday. “Today, they logged in again, under umbrellas because it was raining.”

The Canby Current asked other teachers, parents and students what they thought of school so far. Here’s what you had to say.

Most comments were positive:

Not surprisingly, some parents are having trouble adjusting to their new role, or fitting it in with their existing work schedules:

Especially for those parents who are also teachers:

While some said it is what you make of it:

Everyone praised the work of Canby teachers:

And the Canby Online Learning Academy, or COLA, got a few shout-outs in particular:

Not everyone is loving it, though:

Parents of children with specialized or behavioral needs face increased challenges:

Most just seemed glad to not have the packets again, which were used in the spring for equitability reasons, since some families did not have reliable internet access:

Like, people really hated those packets:

And, of course, some of you had jokes:

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