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Coronavirus not first incident to spur digital education at Milwaukie-area school

La Salle Prep continues to educate its nearly 700 students via digital learning during the mandated closure of all Oregon schools through April 28 to stem the spread of COVID-19.

La Salle is no stranger to digital learning. Located just east of Milwaukie city limits in Clackamas County, it was the first brick-and-mortar high school in Oregon to offer online learning during a snowstorm three years ago. Ice coated the metro area's streets in January, prompting most schools in the area to close, as they already had several times before for inclement weather that season. Rather than lose another school day to Mother Nature, La Salle told its students to log into their iPads, locate their lessons and study at home.

Since then, the school has scheduled periodic digital learning days — even when the skies are clear — to familiarize teachers and students with this online format for learning. Every student uses an iPad to take notes, submit assignments and annotate e-textbooks.

COURTESY PHOTO - Despite the statewide closure of schools, La Salle Prep students such as Lucas Wobig can study at home thanks to digital learning lessons the school began regularly holding three years ago.La Salle offers a few "blended online" courses that pair online instruction with in-person discussions. Some teachers give "flipped" lessons, in which the teachers create and share material for students to study before class, then answer questions about the lesson during class. Students also use technology to keep schedules, assemble portfolios of work, make videos to present what they've learned, share prayers and use online surveys to gather data.

"The core of this idea is to keep learning going for the students even when circumstances do not allow us to be on campus," said La Salle Principal Andrew Kuffner. "We have all of these amazing digital tools at our fingertips and already integrated into our classes. We are blessed to be in a position to leverage them to support our students' learning and sense of community during this time."

Learning in new ways also teaches students how to be more self-reliant and resilient when faced with unexpected challenges — like the closure of their school's campus amid fears of the coronavirus.

Senior Talia Felcher said the closure means she's unable to see teachers and friends, participate in track, and go to Moab, Utah, for a field study she'd been looking forward to since she was a freshman.

"Although these are all quite disappointing for me and my classmates," she said, "I personally am happy that we are still able to continue learning from home."

La Salle student body president Lucas Wobig said he misses saying "hi" to friends as he walks down the hall, and popping into classrooms to talk to teachers.

"Even though I still keep in touch with my close friends, I miss the La Salle community."

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