Oregon families, parents and students must accept the “strong possibility” that schools will not reopen this academic year, according to the director of the Oregon Department of Education.
“As we continue the effective measures of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order, we also foresee the strong possibility that our students may not come back through our school house doors this academic year,” Colt Gill said on Twitter Monday night.
Gill said this calls for a shift from providing voluntary supplemental educational supports to a formidable effort to provide “Distance Learning for All”: a robust distance learning platform involving teaching and learning.
This new guidance from the Oregon Department of Education was also shared Monday night with superintendents across the state, including Canby’s.
“Distance Learning for All, the ODE guidance, emphasizes student care, equity, community collaboration and direct contacts between students and their teachers,” Superintendent Trip Goodall said in a message to Canby School District families Monday afternoon.
“Distance learning does not mean just online education, and schools will likely need to offer a blend of teaching modes, including methods such as paper assignments and phone calls.”
Since Gov. Brown ordered schools closed March 12, districts have offered free, optional resources for families to utilize during the school closure.
Now back from “spring break,” the state’s guidance offers a more structured look at how schools should operate in April — and perhaps, through the end of the school year.
The state’s guidelines for families include recommended daily instructional times: 45 minute for grades K-1, an hour for grades 2-3, 90 minutes for grades 4-5 and three hours for grades 6-12 (30 minutes per teacher).
For high schools students, schools are advised to keep credit-earning options the same as they would in a physical school setting.
According to the new guidelines, “districts may want to consider the full variety of options to ensure students have clear pathways to earning credits and meeting graduation requirements,” including online coursework, passing an advanced test or completing a portfolio.
ODE has yet to release guidance on graduation requirements for seniors in the Class of 2020, though Goodall said he expects this “soon.” State testing has already been canceled for the year. The state submitted a federal waiver that received approval Friday.
On Monday, Gill acknowledged the rollout of remote learning won’t be easy.
“Of course, education without face-to-face interaction between students and teachers will look and feel different and cannot be fully replicated across a distance,” Gill said in his letter to statewide superintendents. “It will not and cannot happen overnight.”
The state has set a launch date of April 13 for the new “Distance Learning for All” model. In the meantime, ODE said districts should continue to provide supplemental resources and focus on reconnecting with students.
“Our district leadership team is already working on how to develop and implement this plan,” Goodall said. “We ask for your patience as we work through plans on training staff, developing lesson guidance, and continuing our planned outreach to families this week.
“We are confident that in partnership with our educators and associations, that we can provide distance learning for students in an equitable manner.”
The statewide teachers union, the Oregon Education Association, signaled a willingness to work with state and district leaders to implement the expanded shift toward distance learning throughout Oregon’s public schools.
But in a statement, OEA president John Larson cautioned “it is crucial that our elected leaders ensure that students aren’t penalized for an inability to thrive under these new circumstances.”
Larson underscored a concern shared by many educators and administrators — that the challenges facing students from low-income families or in circumstances can make online learning particularly difficult.
“With some students lacking the proper technology, connectivity, resources, or time to fully engage with a distance learning model school districts must acknowledge and incorporate that reality into their Distance Learning for All plans,” Larson said.
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