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Online challenges, letters from teachers keep school in minds of young children

COURTESY PHOTO: LINDSEY SMITH - Puddletown Montessori School kindergarten teacher Lindsey Smith has been writing letters to her students during the COVID-19-forced school break. Other teachers are turning to social media to keep elementary school students engaged.With schools closed throughout the state, elementary school teachers are doing their part to make sure their young charges are keeping their minds sharp, and their spirits up.

Jamie Lentz, principal at Paul L. Patterson Elementary School in the Hillsboro School District, has been keeping in touch with her students online, through the school's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Last week, Lentz began posting short videos to the school's social media channels, reading the school's morning announcements. Later in the day, Lentz will post short assignments for her students to do.

"We have a reading competition going on, and we'll post these open-ended math problems for families to do together," Lentz said.

(Image is Clickable Link) Patterson Elementary School Principal Jamie Lentz has been posting video updates on the school's Facebook page to keep students engaged.Schools in Oregon closed on March 17 as Oregon continues to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has called on state universities to move forward with online classes, but that's not an option for kindergarten and elementary school classrooms.

Lentz, who has led Patterson for the past three years, said she wanted a way for Patterson's 450 students to feel like they were still a community, even if they have to spent some time apart.

At least one student in the Hillsboro School District has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"We challenged kids one day to work with their parents and bake something," Lentz said. "They could do all the measuring and practice their math skills."

The school installed a "Little Free Library" outside the school for families to visit to get reading materials during the break.

The students post photos and videos of themselves completing the challenges.

"I was thinking of ways to stay connected during all of this craziness," Lentz said.

How are teachers in your area connecting to elementary school students? Email reporter Geoff Pursinger at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lentz's approach has taken off. Other schools in Hillsboro have followed suit, and teachers at Patterson have begun posting their own challenges to students on the school's social media. Teachers at Imlay Elementary School have been reading to students on YouTube, and teachers at Rosedale Elementary School have begun sharing jokes online.

Lindsey Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Puddletown Montessori School in Portland's Woodstock neighborhood, sent each of her students a letter and drawing this week, so her young students knew she was thinking about them.

"I was feeling like we were going to be out for a long time," Smith said. "Teaching preschool and kindergarten, there's a lot of closeness with the kids and their whole schedule and lives are uprooted right now."

Smith wrote each student a handwritten letter and included a drawing of herself with each student sharing an activity together.

"It's just a nice way to keep the kids in your mind," Smith said. "I think about them all day, every day."

During times of great stress and uncertainty, Smith and Lentz agreed, children need to see adults they know.

"I want them to see another adult in their life be calm and positive during this, it can be powerful," Lentz said.

Lentz said the challenges are a way to keep students focused and connected with their school during what can feel like a very isolating time.

"It's important for kids to have routine and structure," Lentz said. "Morning announcements are something they are used to seeing every day."



By Geoff Pursinger
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