Baker Prairie students have less onsite learning time
Parents pushed back after Canby School District announced that Baker Prairie Middle School would be the lone school in the district to not see increased onsite learning time. Following the pushback, the district's message was clear: it's just not possible.
The district notified the Canby community on April 14 that most of the district's schools would increase onsite learning to four days per week beginning Tuesday, April 27, excluding Baker Prairie.
Instead, Baker Prairie families saw the already established two in-person learning days lengthened, but no days added. The students remain in cohorts, and the other three learning days at home are asynchronous, meaning there is no live instruction.
The reason is that most Baker Prairie students opted to return to in-person learning rather than remain in the connected at-home learning or Canby Online Learning Academy. With so many students, school leaders have failed to find a way to fit them all in the classrooms while keeping 3 feet of distance as required by the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority.
Principal Jennifer Turner said at the April 15 school board meeting that classrooms can accommodate 18 to 19 students maximum, while class sizes would range from 20 to 28 or more if cohorts were combined and all students were to return at once.
But parents aren't having it.
"While I processed the reasons and understand the practicality of it, I am still filled with disbelief," Gwendolyn Wilson said. "Will Baker Prairie be in the same boat in the fall?"
Superintendent Trip Goodall partly answered that question when he announced that the district presently is planning to return all students to a five-day onsite schedule in the fall.
But if the current guidance remains, that could prove difficult, and parents are concerned about their students' well-being.
"Our students are suffering," Sarah Morrow said in her latest letter to the board. "Their education, mental health and preparation for the future are being irreparably damaged each day. Our children have taken all they can take, and they're crumbling before our eyes.
"While middle school is one of the most difficult phases a young person can go through, it's also one of the most important times in their lives," Morrow continued. "This is a time for them to gain independence, grow in friendships and learn how to deal with adversity. By excluding them from full-time in-person learning, you are robbing them of this vital experience and growth."
Morrow implored district leaders to either make it work somehow or to push back against the guidance.
"Please do not give up on the Baker Prairie students," Morrow said. "Please do not give up fighting for my daughter. There must be a way to make this work. My daughter is depending on you, and so are the hundreds of other students at BPMS."
Turner made it clear she has not and will not give up on students.
"We have not stopped thinking about it," Turner said. "I mean, I wake up at night. I think about it early in the morning. It is constantly on my mind how to get our kids back in school more hours and more days.
"We are fighting for your students, and we are trying, and the community needs to know that. We have not given up on your kids. We have not given up on you as parents. Our teachers haven't given up. And we will continue to try to look and try to balance it and make it work."
Given the abundant parent feedback, the school board instructed district leaders to explore alternatives with the goal of returning BPMS students to class four days per week.
Folks chimed in with different ideas, such as using the three available classrooms at Ackerman School. But Turner pointed out that it would be difficult to decide which students to force over to Ackerman. Plus, the district would have to hire new, qualified teachers to staff another building — a task Human Resources Director Michelle Riddell said is challenging right now as several open positions have failed to draw any applications.
Other ideas included using gyms and cafeterias or erecting temporary outdoor structures.
But Goodall came back in a letter to families on Wednesday, April 28, to say that while the district researched every idea and suggestion, they exhausted all options and still determined they could not bring all grade 7-8 students to the buildings at the same time Tuesday through Friday.
Goodall acknowledged the efforts of Turner and Associate Principal Travis Opperman, who he said have spent countless hours weighing, evaluating and researching all options.
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