After Gov. Kate Brown forced the temporary closure of schools statewide to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus earlier this month, teachers in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District will soon begin to educate local youth again.
However, in terms of environment and expectations, circumstances will differ markedly from the norm.
On March 20, the district announced that it will switch to "enhanced supplemental learning" starting April 6 and until at least April 28, which is when Brown's order expires. This means teachers in the district, who will begin formulating plans March 30, will post weekly lessons online and provide packets available for pick up. However, grades or even expectations that students will complete assignments won't exist.
"This is ever-changing as we get direction from the (Oregon) department of education. For now there's no expectation. This is going to be optional learning. We would encourage families to participate," District Director of Communications Andrew Kilstrom said.
Teachers and district administrators will flesh out much of the specifics of what supplemental learning will look like next week but Kilstrom said teachers will definitely use Google Classroom to post assignments and connect with students.
"A big part of this will (require) cross collaboration between teachers to create that content and create material weekly," he said. "There will be teacher-student connection as well. We're working through that."
One question on the minds of district officials, according to Kilstrom, is how to provide an equitable environment for students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds and family situations.
The district recently surveyed students across the district and found that about 1,000 families would need a Chromebook to perform online learning, though Kilstrom said the district hasn't contacted all families yet and plans to do so by April 6. The district will provide Chromebooks to all students who need them, Kilstrom said.
"Right now we're learning the basic info of 'Do you have reliable internet? Do you need the internet?' We're sending a letter in the mail to reach families who haven't received surveys," Kilstrom said.
Kilstrom was confident students could participate in online learning even if their parents weren't home to help them but that doing so could prove challenging for some.
"Our top priority in anything we do is equity," he said.
On another note, Kilstrom said the district is also waiting for direction from the department of education as to whether supplemental learning days will count toward instructional hour requirements and whether state mandated standardized testing will be impacted. However, the Oregon College Board recently announced that students will be able to complete Advance Placement (AP) testing from home.
Kilstrom acknowledged that supplemental learning might not run smoothly from the get-go and asked district families for patience.
"We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding and help in getting all this going," he said. "Our teaching staff has been incredible; the administration team has not missed a beat. It's been inspiring to see the whole community come together and I'm excited for what we can provide starting April 6."
Kilstom acknowledged that constraints caused by the virus could impact students' educational development but wasn't sure about the degree of impact.
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