COVID-19, child care, transportation: Lake Oswego School Board previews new year
"It's a great day to be part of the Lake Oswego School District." This was said multiple times during the Tuesday, Aug. 30, Lake Oswego School Board meeting.
The day before, on Monday, Aug. 29, the school district opened its classroom doors again and ushered in the 2022-23 academic year (some grade levels had one more day of summer and began Tuesday, Aug. 30). During the meeting, the board discussed several topics that will play a huge role in the new year.
Superintendent Jennifer Schiele provided some "hopeful" updates that pointed to a smooth year.
"We have amazing students in the district … it has been all smiles and laughter and calmness," Schiele said.
Regarding transportation, Schiele provided the board with some encouraging updates.
Before the pandemic, the district had 56 bus routes, but due to driver shortages and the redesigning of routes there are now 33.
"This is a post-COVID problem that we have with drivers. We have more buses, but we don't have the drivers. And so we had to create routes for the system that we had so that we are not doing what we did last year canceling and merging (routes)," Schiele said.
Schiele also mentioned how Lake Oswego is not built for accessible walking and urged the community to get involved with the current city-led initiative to add more pathways throughout different neighborhoods.
In the health and safety realm, the district will keep its COVID-19 dashboard, which tracks all positive cases that families report. Schiele also said the district will keep its COVID-19 response protocols in place, which include the green, yellow and red signs that determine the level of cases in the district. When Oregon declares it a "red" level, schools highly encourage masks.
Schiele also provided a brief update on the after-school program.
During the last board meeting in July, the district announced that the third-party providers Champions and CampFire, which rent out space in the school district to provide before- and after-school care, were experiencing a staff shortage.
The loss of staff meant some families that initially had a spot in one of the programs were now on a wait list temporarily.
The after-school providers previously told the district they had a pipeline of candidates for hire. On Tuesday, Schiele said the providers are working to accommodate all families that need child care and potential employees are in the interview process.
Student representatives Samantha Jarquin and Jacob Stuckey gave their first update of the school year. Both students said there were some slight disruptions during the day. Lakeridge experienced two separate incidents of fire alarm drills during lunch due to a technology error, while Lake Oswego High School went into a brief "secure hold" status after a software issue prompted the declaration of the drill over the loudspeakers. The situation was resolved immediately.
After their first day, Jarquin and Stuckey surveyed some of their fellow classmates at both high schools to see how they felt about the upcoming school year. Students said they appreciated teachers making an effort to build relationships with the teenagers right off the bat.
Jarquin said some of her classmates were confused by the new "advisory period." Schiele said the class was formerly known as "support seminar," which was introduced to the school district last year but was replaced with a new name based on student feedback.
The former support seminar was a time for Lake Oswego High School students to practice the district's Character Strong program, which emphasizes social-emotional learning. However, last academic year, students said they did not relate to the program or "see the point."
The advisory period was added as a new way to check in with students and reintroduce social-emotional learning.
"(It is) built off the feedback we got last year from the students," Schiele said. "We didn't just want to throw away the idea of a social-emotional curriculum."
Other updates await approval
The board also approved an additional one-time salary stipend of $1,300 to be paid to classified staff in the school district. Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Stuart Ketzler will then bring the proposed stipend to the Lake Oswego School District Employees Association membership team, which deals with budgeting and payroll, for formal ratification.
LaKeyshua Washington, the district's executive director of curriculum and instruction, proposed one book to be used in the 10th grade honors language arts curriculum as part of the district's "secondary pilot novels project."
The novel "The Monkey King: Journey to the West" by Wu Cheng'en is a comic adventure that incorporates a satirical retelling about Chinese bureaucracy and the Ming dynasty.
The school board will meet again at 6 p.m Sept. 12.
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