Starting distance learning in Oregon’s public schools

Coronavirus

Lessons officially start in Oregon schools on Monday, April 13

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Long-distance learning started in many school districts in Oregon and Southwest Washington on Monday, but it was not business as usual for students and teachers who are now in virtual classrooms.

A lot of parents are longing for the days when kids showed up to school, and left at the end of the school day, and all they had to do was make sure they did their homework. But online school, or distance learning, is quickly becoming the new norm, and most districts are taking it slowly for teachers and students alike.

Portland Public Schools

For Portland Public Schools, the largest district in the metro area, this week most teachers are tasked with reaching out to students, making sure they have a way to communicate with their teachers, and if they have a computer to access lessons with.

“It can be really chaotic sometimes. A while ago we were in a chat with my social studies teacher and everyone was trying to talk at once,” said Portland 6th grader Iris Delamarter.

There is still a problem getting technology out to all the students who need it. PPS said it is still working on that, as well as internet access across the district.

“The plan moving forward: teachers are getting familiar with online tools that the district has provided. Students and families are getting used to those online tools like Google Classroom and Seesaw,” said Elizabeth Thiel, Vice President of the Portland Association of Teachers. “Teachers are also going to continue to prioritize students’ well-being and mental health.”

Oregon districts have until next Monday, April 13, to actually start up lessons, which can be online classes–either live or pre-recorded–or other learning sites, and written class material packets. It’s only high school students who will be getting class credit needed for graduation. A big problem for teachers is how to measure proficiency among students remotely.

Estacada School District

Meanwhile, distancing learning has been underway for a few weeks in Estacada–a much smaller district. Middle school math teacher Chris Stanton said parents, students, and teachers need to realize it’s not as simple as having a teacher just record themselves giving a lesson–they want to be able to interact with their students.

“We’re trying to teach and learn the program beyond just the content we’re covering,” said Stanton. “We’re trying to make it work first, and then we’re going to make it great.”

At the same time, many teachers are also suddenly stay-at-home parents, and are trying to schoolwork for their children while managing their own classrooms.

Many parents are panicked, worried about what their students are missing and not feeling qualified to jump in as the substitute teacher, or evening having the time to do so. Some advice for all parents? Focus on the things you can do. Have kids take a break from screens and write letters to friends, use recipes to make a meal together–find alternative ways to learn and educate.

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