For students in the state of Oregon, the road back to normalcy may have gotten a bit longer this week.
On Monday (March 30), South Lane School District (SLSD) interim superintendent Yvonne Curtis sent out a message to all parents and students informing them that the school closure directive — currently scheduled to end on April 28 — may in fact last the remainder of the school year.
“Until last night, our intention was to remotely offer Supplemental Education and Learning Supports through April 28,” Curtis wrote in the letter. “However, last night, I received a message from our director at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Colt Gill, with a new directive. Now we will be ensuring all students engage in Distance Learning quite possibly through the remainder of the school year.”
While the message is vague on details and still leaves open the possibility of a re-opening in spring 2020, the decision was made based on the fast-paced recent developments regarding COVID-19 and ever-growing data suggesting a more prolonged shutdown to combat the virus.
“Our state’s response to COVID-19 has responsibly and necessarily evolved with the use of data and knowledge of effective suppression measures,” Gill said in the message from ODE.
“We now have a moral imperative to meet the changing nature of the pandemic and evolve our approach to serving our children.
“As we continue the effective measures of Governor Brown’s ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ order, we also foresee the strong possibility that our students may not come back through our school house doors this academic year. This calls for a shift from providing supplementary education to a formidable effort to provide Distance Learning for All.”
SLSD staff thus began work on Tues., Mar. 31 coordinating a plan to offer continued learning for all students in spite of local schools shuttering their doors.
“On April 13, your student(s) will receive learning in a new way,” Curtis wrote. “We are excited about the possibilities that will emerge as staff engage in professional development and learn how to design and deliver Distance Learning for every student.”
Despite the turmoil and in the face of nationwide business and school closures, Curtis began the letter by reiterating SLSD’s commitment to maintaining communication with all students to ensure their continued education.
“Please know that in the last two weeks, our staff has been planning for a reconnection with our students,” Curtis wrote. “Yesterday, our staff returned to work with a goal to reach every student and family by phone. It is important for us to know how our students are doing during this time of isolation.”
SLSD staff made the calls to make sure that each district student has enough food, to check how each family is doing, to gauge the need of mental health supports in an emotionally trying time and to learn about students’ access to internet-capable devices and Wi-Fi.