Schools may be closed, but teachers and administrators at Sutherlin School District have worked hard to make sure students can continue learning.
“We planned ahead of time and had some of this. The general idea was ready to go right prior to the closure,” Superintendent Terry Prestianni said. “The department of education had instructed us several weeks before that we should be planning for this possibility.”
The school will officially start its supplemental education program on April 1. Most of it will be online, although packets will also be made available to students.
“(Teachers) are doing the best they can in getting the information out to kids,” Prestianni said. “The feedback has been ‘This is new and different.’ But, they’re getting stuff done.”
Technology Director Miguel Carrillo worked to make sure the school district has the infrastructure to support online learning. And, perhaps more importantly, that students have the technology to connect for online learning.
“We have sent out as many messages as we can through different avenues,” Prestianni said, when asked how he hopes to reach all students. “For those who don’t have devices, we’re going to provide them when we come back after spring break.”
The school district purchased hotspots to lend to families who do not have internet access and will also lend Chromebooks to families who do not have a computer available.
Oregon Department of Education does not recommend moving to online school unless a district can ensure equity. However, it did little to advise school districts about how to continue educating students if not through online methods.
Once they have an internet connection, students or parents can go to the Sutherlin School District website and click on Student Resource Links, which will bring them to a site with instruction for different grade levels.
Teachers, with the guidance of building principals, started creating online curricula a few weeks ago and have continued adding information and access to resources.
“While I think we came out with a general plan, they have made it work,” Prestianni said. He added that staff had gone “above and beyond” by creating Facebook Live sessions of reading books with students, which was not part of the district’s plan.
For sixth through 12th graders, there will now be online courses offered daily through Google Classrooms.
In addition to learning for the different grade levels, the website also gives additional learning opportunities for Extended Language Learning and Special Education.
If a student still cannot access the website, packets will be made available for each grade level.
“With school closures we are providing learning opportunities in multiple ways,” Colleen Bechtel wrote in a letter to parents and guardians.
While it remains unclear whether the instruction will be graded or how it will impact credits, the school district is excited to move forward by offering as much as they can.
“Some of it is games, but they’re supplementary,” Prestianni said.
When interviewed Friday, the superintendent said he was impressed at how much had been added to the website in a 48-hour time span. Even more is expected to be added on March 30 and 31.
Under the current guidelines, Oregon schools will reopen April 29. However, Gov. Kate Brown can extend or suspend the closures at any time.
And as the open date of schools is still a little up in the air, so is the way education will look in Oregon.
“It’s ever-changing, because we just don’t know what the next step will be,” Prestianni said.
School districts throughout Oregon are making adjustments to get instructional materials out to students who would miss 27 days of instruction if schools reopen by late April. Some are moving to online learning, while others will be delivering packets with lunches.