Technology Services and Facility Staff prepare student computers for Distance Learning for All. “I am proud of our district staff and the work they have accomplished,” Joel Higdon, Director of Technology Services and Maintenance/Facility Operations said. “As we move ahead, I take comfort and know we are ready for the challenges on the horizon.”
With the Governor’s announcement Wednesday that the school closure will extend through the end of the academic year, the Oregon Department of Education is helping school district’s continue to provide education to students through “Distance Learning for All.”
Each district needs to have their plan in place by April 13, and schools in the Southern Willamette Valley are already getting tools in place to make that transition as seamless as possible.
“This may appear at first glance to be a nuance, but it is a significant assignment. We at Springfield School District embrace this challenge, because it will be best for our students,” Springfield Superintendent Todd Hamilton said in a press release. “This request will be a big lift for us as a community. Our teachers are quickly learning the ropes of distance learning and will be ready to help.”
In Creswell, Superintendent Mike Johnson said that staff is eager to make distance learning happening and are “working hard at it.”
“They’re motivated to connect with kids and miss them,” he said. “They’re really preparing the curriculum.”
When the schools first closed, the first focus was on meal distribution to students. From there, Johnson said that Creswell started utilizing their online communication platform and creating leadership learning teams, professional learning teams, and staff learning teams within the buildings. Over spring break, the teams started to provide materials for at home learning and worked on building proficiency with Google classroom, to connect with kids at their home.
As the weeks have continued, Creswell put together a mobile distribution system to deliver meals to kids further away from the City center. The fleet makes trips Mondays and Wednesdays, delivering two to three meals in a go. Beyond meals, this distribution fleet will also provide system devices to those who don’t have an electronic device to connect to the schools.
“We accomplish so much in a day it seems like we get a week’s work of work done in setting up for this,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to believe that we’re only a few weeks into this and where we’re now as far as preparing school to home. “
Throughout the Southern Willamette Valley, all school districts have launched enrichment activities to provide supplementary education. South Lane School District and Creswell has an example schedule with resources and ideas, such as watching educational videos on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) or from museums. The district has also compiled resources by age, for easier access.
“The teachers did a great job getting materials together,” Johnson said. “It’s a wide variety and we have everything in there.”
Now that schools are required to do more, schools have sent out a technology connection survey and are using liaisons to connect with all groups in the community, from Special Education to English language learners to homeless students. Johnson added that whoever doesn’t respond, the district will follow up with a phone call.
At the moment, teachers are working to prepare their updated curriculum before April 13. Johnson said that K-8 will happen quicker because the high school level took longer to receive guidance from ODE on what courses will look like for credits and graduation requirements.
Johnson said the guidance from ODE is to tailor the school hours to each age group. For K-2, their online connection with teachers wouldn’t be more than 35 to 45 minutes. For high school, each teacher has up to 30 minutes of class time.
Johnson added that while they expect high schoolers to handle two to three hours a day online, it can be a lot to keep students’ attention when they’re not in a structured environment.
Going forward, Johnson’s hope is that everyone gets through this healthy and that schools have learned how to be more efficient during emergency times.
In Springfield, Hamilton’s goals are: to help students avoid stagnation, provide parent’s access to materials and that, “We have done everything within our reach to make this as successful an experience for you and your child as possible.”