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Officials still most important part has been students and teachers connecting again, even if its only virtual.

COURTESY PHOTO: AMBER FIELDS - Skylar Fields, daughter of Amber Fields, the Tigard-Tualatin School Districts director of secondary, career and college, attends her first week of classes online last week.  Despite a few technological glitches, the first week of school came off without a hitch for most schools in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Teachers and administrators alike got a chance to catch up with their students and colleagues — albeit it virtually, an unmistakable part of a new school year and new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I've never seen collaboration happen at a higher level — teacher-to-teacher, admin-to-admin — that's been a beauty that's come out of this for sure," said Amber Fields, Tigard-Tualatin director of secondary, career and college. She said attendance at online classes the first week "has been pretty phenomenal."

Fields said the wildfires across the state over the last several weeks only added to a sense of trauma, so students being allowed to connect with teachers, and vice versa, proved beneficial.

"Everyone, whether I think we notice it or not, I think we have to normalize we're all sitting in a space of trauma and it all shows up differently for all of us," she said, adding that "people need connection right now more than anything."

What's different from the end of last spring when COVID-19 put a halt to in-person classes over a 24-hour period was that no one had been trained in what to do next. This year, however, schools have been set up with all the requirements of a brick and mortar building including the needed rigor and expectations of students, said Fields.

For older students, that includes talking about "digital citizenship" and online etiquette, especially in a time of "Zoombombs," creating situations where hackers have the ability to disrupt virtual classrooms. Several metro-area schools, including Mountainside High School in Beaverton, reported these disruptions during their first week of classes.

Fields said the only glitch during the first week of classes came when the district's computer server had difficulty handling so many students online and crashed at times. However, she said a middle school principal told her such events caused only brief interruptions.

"Our IT department is amazing, and within 5 to 10 minutes, the server was fixed and 100% of her kids came back," said Fields. That shows, she believes, that "kids really want to be here."

Over at Bridgeport Elementary School, Principal Jordan Mills said the year actually started a week before online classes began, when students and their parents swung by the school to collect their iPads, whiteboards, workbooks and anything else needed to set up classrooms at home and other supplies.COURTESY PHOTO: AMBER FIELDS - Charley Fields, a second-grader in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, started her classes virtually last week.

"That really felt kind of like our kick-off event, where we actually got to see the kids drive through and our teachers volunteered to distribute the supplies," said Mills.

Still, the first several days were focused on students and family connections.

In regard to questions about how to set students to learn online at home, it's uniquely individual, she pointed out.

"There is no one right way to set your kid up at home," said Mills, noting that every student has their own unique living situation. However, she suggested that parents make sure students have any needed supplies nearby and are in an area where they can move around, stretch and stand.

Mills said she is impressed with attendance so far at Bridgeport, whose enrollment is at 526 students, just down a bit from last year. And while her school, like others, experienced a few technology glitches here and there, teachers were prepared, and most had backup plans to deal with those brief bouts.

"What they want more than anything is to see their students and interact with them," said Mills. "They have just enjoyed this week so much."

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