District Preps for Start of School Year Unlike Any Other

More than 4,000 children in Canby will begin a brand-new academic year this week. Virtually all of them will start their first day of school without leaving their homes.

This unprecedented start to a new academic year in the Canby School District, of course, is brought to you by the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

After spending most of the summer preparing for a hybrid model this fall — one that combined two days of in-person instruction with three days of remote learning each week to comply with the Oregon Department of Education’s new social distancing guidelines — the Canby School District was forced to pivot to a fully distance model in late July after Governor Kate Brown announced strict new metrics that must be met before schools can reopen.

At a later conference, she raised the eyebrows of many when she announced it would take an estimated 200 days to reach levels of Covid-19 transmission that would allow for a safe return to classrooms: which — meaning a reopening of schools in mid-March or even April of 2021.

“It could be 200 days before we can return to our classrooms,” Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall said in a recent letter to district families, quoting the governor. “We are certainly hoping cases decline and we’ll return to in-person learning before then.

“We’re prepared to continue Continued At-Home Learning until we are permitted to return to our schools. We’re monitoring all of the metrics we must meet before we can launch a hybrid model of learning.”

Most families enrolled in the Canby School District have spent this past week preparing for this most unusual start to a new school year, including drive-thru pick-ups of iPads and other materials to help facilitate distance learning.

Students also received their schedules and classroom assignments for the Connected At-Home Learning model, and were asked to practice logging into email and Zoom ahead of their first live class on Tuesday.

Canby grade school students will be engaged in live learning from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for high schoolers.

For some students, this past week might have been the only time they will see their teachers — or any district staff member — in person for many weeks.

Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall listens during a meeting of the Canby School Board in February 2020. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Though the district was, again, forced to change course due to new guidelines this summer, educators and administrators still had much more time to prepare for distance learning this fall, and Goodall believes the final product will show significant improvements.

Unlike last spring, in which much of the instruction was done through hastily assembled packets due to a significant percentage of district families having inadequate access to technology and the internet, Goodall said this year’s distance model includes “connecting with teachers and peers through live remote instruction and applied learning opportunities.”

“This is a change from the distance learning model we offered in the spring, when we were given just a week to prepare to teach remotely,” he said.

This year, of course, has also marked a monumental shift for many teachers, but Goodall said the past few weeks have not been all bad.

“It’s been wonderful to connect with our colleagues, even if it’s all been done virtually,” he said. “Our team has been focused on mastering all the digital tools they’ll be using to connect with and to educate our students. And, we’ve been diving in to find new ways to support our students and families as we embark on our Connected At-Home Learning model.”

Communication will be critical this year, he said.

“Please be sure to communicate directly with your teachers and support staff to ensure your student is getting the help they need,” the superintendent advised parents. “It’s going to take all of us, collaborating and communicating, to ensure a successful school year.”

The district will be offering free meals to all students this school year through Dec. 31. If you already signed up for meal delivery, the district will deliver meals directly to your home beginning Sept. 8. Breakfast and lunch will be delivered between 11:30 and 12:30.

If you did not previously sign up, but would like to receive meals, please fill out the district’s online form here. Your address will be added to the district’s list, and meal delivery should start on Sept. 14.

The district has also set up a new online support portal for parents and families who need assistance with distance learning. The website is available in English and Spanish at www.canby.k12.or.us/support.

“I know you’re eager to get the school year started,” Goodall said. “Our new learning model may present some initial challenges, but we are excited about the opportunities it will also present. Our dedicated staff is preparing for a year of care and connection, and a year of academic growth for every learner. We look forward to your partnership in this process.”

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