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RPS Virtual School ready to launch for 2021-2022 school year

Roseburg Public Schools is ready to launch its own online option, RPS Virtual School, at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’ve done our homework, we’ve got the latest and most up-to-date instructional materials and instructional practices and platforms,” said Michelle Knee, RPS assistant superintendent and director of teaching and learning. “We’ve done tons of research and reaching out and we feel confident in our plan.”

The elementary school classes will be facilitated by Roseburg school district teachers utilizing the Florida Virtual School platform. At the secondary level, the district will initially use the Apex Learning program and teachers. It plans to transition to district educators in the 2022-2023 school year.

The learning platforms were recommended by other schools that already have established online programs and tested by Roseburg administrators.

As of Thursday, Knee estimated approximately 15% of students districtwide were enrolled in remote learning options the school district is currently offering.

RPS Virtual School will be a part of the school district and its students will be able to participate in sports, clubs and other activities the district has to offer.

Rob Peterson, an 11th grader, has been attending virtual school since the start of his high school career.

“It’s better than a public school, I’ll tell you that,” Peterson said. “I really don’t have to deal with a million people running around.”

Peterson has high-functioning autism and opted to go to a virtual school because he didn’t perform well in a traditional classroom. He was part of a study group through the district, but that was canceled due to COVID-19.

Peterson has been attending Connections Academy through Roseburg Public Schools and will likely transfer to the new virtual option next year. Connections Academy will no longer be an option, but Knee said the new virtual option will be similar.

“It’s similar but more engaging and easier to navigate,” Knee said. “And yes, everything will transfer because our Connections students are still Roseburg Public Schools students.”

The new RPS Virtual School will offer asynchronous learning options allowing students the freedom to study on their own schedule.

Peterson and his grandmother and primary caregiver Susan Bryan like to get up later in the morning, but still start school within about an hour of waking up in the morning.

“I can’t believe we got up at 6 a.m. for all those years,” Bryan said.

Peterson said math is his favorite course, but he struggles with language arts because its not as interactive as a course.

“The downfall with a lot of these online school systems is that most of the time there’s not someone on the other end,” Peterson said.

To be able to help him with his struggles in classes, his teachers are available to help when he makes an appointment with them.

Roseburg Public Schools will incorporate that option in its online platform as well. And with district teachers there will be an option for tutoring and meeting in-person, if needed.

The school district will start the virtual school and start gathering data on its effectiveness to make sure this is the right investment for the district and the community.

Teachers for the elementary school will be working from the Rose School building, which will be vacated since the alternative school is merged with the high school.

There will be one teacher for each grade level at the elementary school, which will be overseen by Coordinator of Teaching and Learning Dani Jardine. Jardine will also oversee the virtual middle school students.

The district is still working on details for the secondary students in grades 6-12, but Knee said the plan is to have several district teachers in 2022-2023 dedicated 25% to the virtual school and 75% to the traditional school. An assistant principal at the high school will oversee the virtual school for grades 9-12.

Salvage logging: generational loss and concern for the future

It’s 2021, and the log decks at Douglas County sawmills have not looked so robust since the late 1980s.

Most of those logs, however, are charred.

This is life for the timber industry throughout Oregon, and especially in Douglas County as logging companies are hustling to harvest whatever damaged lumber they can from the 131,542-acre burn scar which was the Archie Creek Fire.

Since late September, when logging crews first began the effort of removing burnt hazard logs from roadways on the fire scar, Highway 138 East from Roseburg to Steamboat has looked like a trip back in time to the last of the “salad days” of Douglas County’s timber industry.

On any given weekday, it’s not unusual to take the 20-mile drive from Roseburg to Idleyld Park and count 35 to 40 trucks with full loads destined for area mills.

Until recently, even the log deck at the shuttered Glide Lumber mill was brimming, serving as an initial staging area as crews worked to get as much damaged timber out of the hills as quickly as possible.

Matt Hill, executive director of Douglas Timber Operators, estimates that anywhere from 200 to 250 full loads of logs are hauled off the fire on a daily basis.

“We’ve been making fast decisions based on the deterioration of the asset,” Hill said.

More than 1 million acres of timberland burned in Oregon as a result of fires sparked last September. That accounts for essentially 3% of the state’s total privately owned harvestable timber.

But instead of the mature timber growths which have had 25 to 30 years to become quality, commercially viable lumber, trucks are hauling everything from 4-foot diameter charred old growth to the equivalent of fence posts.

“We’re moving a lot of wood that wasn’t ready to get moved very quickly,” Hill said.

On average, a fully loaded log truck carries roughly 4,000 board feet of timber, said Toby Luther, president and CEO of Lone Rock Resources.

“You multiply that by 200, 250 trucks a day ... we’re really racing the clock,” Luther said. “We’re trying to get as much of that timber out before the bugs get to it. We’re going full-tilt right now.”

Up to 1 million board feet of timber is coming out of the Archie Creek Fire scar every day. Thirty years ago, that was a financial boon. Today, many timber operations across the state are just hoping to break even.

But going “full-tilt” is has been hampered due to a lack of resources.

Just as fire managers struggled for resources to combat the Riverside Fire near Molalla, the Beachie and Lionshead fires east of Salem, the Holiday Farm Fire east of Eugene in the McKenzie River area and the Archie Creek Fire, having sufficient post-fire logging resources has also proven difficult.

There aren’t enough loggers to go around, and there aren’t enough drivers to carry the load. Ireland Trucking in Myrtle Creek, for instance, is able to run only half of its available fleet due to a lack of drivers.

The Oregonian reported an estimated loss of $43 million in logging equipment destroyed this past fall’s wildfires. Burnt logs in the timber market yield roughly 25% less per board foot than healthy timber. Additionally, the charred bark from burnt timber is damaging to logging and sawmill equipment as well. Time spent maintaining equipment is time lost producing the final product.

A larger cost, however, looms on the horizon: timber companies facing the loss of millions of board feet of what would have become harvestable, commercial-grade timber over the next decade.

“The longer term question is we’re going to see a dip in (harvest) volume,” Luther said. “A lot of that volume should have been coming in 5 to 10 years.”

Added Hill: “That’s what we’re more concerned about, is where do we go from here?”

Rose Haven faces COVID-19 flare up as county's case numbers continue to rise

Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg is struggling with a major COVID-19 outbreak. Fifty-two staff members and residents there have contracted the disease and one person has died.

The nursing home’s outbreak appeared in the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly outbreak report Thursday. The outbreak began Feb. 5.

Another new outbreak was reported at Chantele’s Loving Touch, a memory care home in Sutherlin. That outbreak, which began Feb. 9, has five cases and no deaths.

Keller Lumber in Roseburg has a new outbreak with 14 cases, the most recent Feb. 11.

Swanson Group Manufacturing in Glendale has a new outbreak involving 12 cases, the most recent from Feb. 13.

Roseburg VA Medical Center has seven cases in a new outbreak there, according to the outbreak report. The most recent case reported is from Feb. 9.

Bailey Veterinary Clinic in Roseburg has a newly reported outbreak with five cases, the most recent Jan. 30.

CHI Mercy Medical Center’s outbreak has grown by one case to 70, the most recent on Feb. 8.

SouthRiver Community Health Center in Winston added two cases bringing its total to nine, the most recent on Feb. 11.

Aviva Health’s outbreak remained at 11 cases, the most recent Jan. 29.

Huffman & Wright Logging Company in Canyonville remained at eight cases, the most recent Feb. 5.

Advanced Skin Center and Dermatology in Roseburg remained at five cases, the most recent Jan. 29.

Workplace outbreaks listed as active include those where there has been at least one case in the past 28 days.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 29 new cases and no new deaths Thursday.

Fourteen county residents are hospitalized with the illness, nine locally and five out of the area.

Douglas Public Health Network is supporting 273 people with the illness who are in isolation, as well as another 535 people who have had contact with an infected person and are in quarantine. That’s a total of 808 people.

Those groups include people impacted by three long-term care center outbreaks and multiple workplace outbreaks. Every one of the 13 public school districts in Douglas County has reported a COVID-19 outbreak.

Epidemiologists at Douglas Public Health Network have to reach out to more potential contacts from school cases than most other types of cases.

They’re seeing more multiple cases at schools than previously, suggesting more community spread of the virus, the response team said.

Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said the cases aren’t necessarily being spread in the classroom. Many have instead been traced to social gatherings among students like play dates, study sessions and sleepovers.

“The spread is also due to the laxity across our county in the use of protective face coverings, washing hands and using hand sanitizer, keeping and maintaining physical distance from others, staying home when you are sick and avoiding large group gatherings,” the team said in a press release.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 466 new cases and six new deaths Thursday.

One of those deaths was a baby boy from Umatilla County, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and died the same day at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington.

“Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy, even more so the death of a child,” Oregon Health Authority Health Officer and state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said in a press release.

“The death of an infant is extremely rare. This news represents a tremendous loss to the mother and family. My thoughts are with them during this difficult time,” he said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.3% of all cases have been reported among Oregonians 9 years old or younger.

Roseburg Public Schools hopes to offer new virtual school option next year

Roseburg Public Schools hopes to offer new virtual school option next year

{child_byline}SANNE GODFREY

The News-Review


Autum Strain has been attending virtual school since October 2019, an option that might be available to more students as Roseburg Public Schools works to develop its own virtual school.

Currently, the school district offers virtual school through Connections Learning at Rose Alternative School.

But the plan is to create a virtual school that will be taught by licensed and local district educators and brings students back into the Roseburg school district.

“This year, in our continued efforts to align our work with our strategic plan, we adopted several objectives that focus on giving all students the tools and support they need,” said Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon. “Several of our objectives, including the creation of a virtual school, recognize that students have individual learning styles. We want to give students choices and opportunities to ensure that they remain engaged in their education and on the path toward successfully completing high school.”

Autum is a 16-year-old junior in high school. She has attended Roseburg schools from kindergarten until 10th grade and opted to stay within the district for virtual learning.

Bethany Strain, her mother, said her family chose virtual school because Autum wanted to be able to work more hours and wanted some flexibility around her school schedule. Bethany Strain owns a local dog grooming business, where Autum works.

“She likes the flexibility and we do a lot of hunting in the fall time and are gone for a week or so and then with school we had issues trying to make up homework every year for hunting season,” Bethany Strain said. “This way has been so much easier.”

Autum added, “I like the way that they give you time you need to get it done. So you’re not really stressing. That’s really nice.”

She estimated she spends about four hours each day learning virtually, which leaves her plenty of time to work and see her horses.

Unlike distance learning, most virtual learning courses are asynchronous which means students can learn at their own pace and are not required to attend Zoom meetings at scheduled times.

“We envision a virtual school that will provide time and location flexibility, a combination of structure and freedom and the ability for students to set their own pace,” Cordon said. “It will be useful for students who prefer and thrive in such an environment, as well as for students who need to recover credits or who wish to accelerate their learning. The virtual school would be an option for K-12.”

While the school district is still in the beginning stages of the process, Cordon is confident that the option will be available to students for the 2021-2022 school year.

The district is still working on details, such as the cost to the district, the enrollment process and how the program will function.

“By reallocating resources currently directed toward out-of-district options, we believe that we can provide a better choice for students who wish to enroll in a virtual school,” Cordon said. “Our virtual school would not only ensure students remain connected to their school community, but they would also have access to district supports and activities.”

Cordon said the pandemic has also led the school district to invest significantly in technology resources, which will be vital in the development of a virtual school.

“The worldwide pandemic has not only created challenges that have required us to stretch our imaginations — it has created opportunities,” Cordon said.

Students and staff members have found new ways to learn and educate, some discovering that online learning is preferable to them. The school district hopes to keep these students enrolled in the district and involved in the community, by offering a local option for virtual school — even after the pandemic.

“Ultimately, we believe that giving our students additional ways to connect and engage with their education will lead toward higher graduation rates,” Cordon said. “We look forward to working with our staff, students, families and the community on this endeavor.”

While Autum enjoys virtual school and doesn’t feel like she misses out on the high school experience, there is one thing she hopes for — walking with her class at graduation.

“She graduates next year and she really wanted to be able to walk with her class,” Bethany Strain said. “Right now, she can’t. She would have to go to Roseburg High School for her last semester in order to be able to walk.”