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Department of Education denies Culver School District's proposal to hold class one day a week and use ZIP code metrics

TERESA JACKSON/MADRAS PIONEER - Culver schools will start with distance learning Sept. 14. Superintendent Stefanie Garber wants all kids to be in the classroom, but the state rejected a proposal that would have had them come to school once a week.The Oregon Department of Education denied Culver School District's Pilot Proposal to allow all 670 students on-site one full day a week.

"ODE met with the Oregon Health Authority and reviewed the proposal, and they were not comfortable allowing all students on campus until they see how the virus is going to play out," said CSD Superintendent Stefanie Garber.

For the school district to fully open, the number of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County must be less than 30. The Pilot Proposal asked the state to look at cases in the district's ZIP codes instead of county cases. CSD could open if the state used ZIP code metrics. The proposal also asked to allow all students on-site each Monday.

"We thought if we could see the kids one day a week, we could line out the work they were to do the next few days," Garber said, noting that ODE guidelines allow districts to bring in groups of 10 students to support them in various ways. "We thought on Mondays we would see who was struggling and who we would then bring back later in the week for small-group support."

She said that distance learning in the spring was not successful.

"It really should be called distance practicing," Garber said, adding that the distance learning format was challenging for most families.

It was not easy for working parents who would work all day and miss the live online lessons and for families who do not have internet access, as well as for single-parent families with multiple children. Additionally, some parents felt inadequate in the new role of being the teacher.

"The structure just didn't work unless there was a parent that was a stay-at-home-parent," Garber said. "And, some of our parents do not have the skill set. They just did not do school."

On Saturday, Aug. 22, Garber received word that ODE denied the district's proposal.

By Monday morning, Aug. 24, district leaders had a new plan.

Families can now choose from three options.

Option 1 includes Comprehensive Distance Learning with on-site support. Students are allowed to be at school for two hours each school day. CSD is considered a small school district, and it has adequate space. Garber said schools can allow students to meet on campus in groups of 10, and they will have all the required precautions in place.

The second option is full-time Comprehensive Distance Learning with teacher-guided instruction via Google Classroom on a computer. All work would be done off-site.

Option 3 is Comprehensive Distance Learning with teacher-designed paper packet work without internet and computers.

The district sent out a survey to families last Friday, asking families to decide which option they want for each student.

As of Monday evening, the families of all but 50 students had replied to the survey. The majority of families, 69%, selected the first option, 22% chose Option 2, and 9% opted for the paper packets.

District leaders pushed the first day of school to Sept. 14 from the original Sept. 8 date in hopes COVID-19 cases would continue to decrease.

Garber said that while the district wants more for their students, the current plan is all that state guidelines allow.

"Our staff does whatever it takes, and this new format will be challenging, but they are willing to be creative to serve the students. We will not be content until all students are on campus for full days," Garber said. "We are grateful for the patience and cooperation we have received from our families. The Culver community is really amazing!"

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