The number of students who want to continue distance learning, despite schools being open to in-person learning for kindergarten through third grade, has been so large that Roseburg Public Schools has started a waitlist.
“Our remote learning classes are currently full,” Assistant Superintendent Michelle Knee said.
The school district is scheduled to start in-person education for those in kindergarten through third grade on Monday. Superintendent Jared Cordon said 221 students will continue with remote learning, 1,432 students will start in person and five will be on a wait list for remote learning.
“We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to provide an element of choice in returning to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cordon said Friday. “We acknowledge and respect the input expressed by many of our families on both the benefits and concerns of returning to in-person instruction.”
Knee said families who do not feel safe returning to in-person education are now offered to enroll in Connections Learning, another online opportunity offered by the district. Families can also be placed on a waitlist for remote education.
As of Friday morning, five students were signed up for Connections Learning, which will be taught by licensed teachers from across the country.
There are currently five people on the wait list for remote learning. Students on the wait list have the option to enroll in Connections Learning or attend school in person.
Remote learning classes for the 221 students in kindergarten through third grade who opted for this will be taught by Roseburg staff members, although not the same teachers the children have had since the start of the school year.
“What we were hearing mostly from parents was ‘Why can’t you open?’ And, ‘We just want to have our kids back to school for whatever reason,’” Cordon said last Thursday. “But there was a, it appears to be a more silent, population of our community that we knew was there. There were more people who opted for this than I maybe would have guessed. And I am surprised.”
The teachers will be licensed and already employed by the school district, but possible in a different capacity. The school district is not planning to hire additional staff to accommodate more remote learners and will not hire an additional principal to oversee the remote learners.
“At the elementary level, we have some staff who support buildings and they’re licensed,” Cordon said last Thursday. “There might be a learning specialist or teacher on special assignment that support children. Those are licensed teachers not in the classroom that will be picking up (remote learning classes). It isn’t additional. We’re not paying additionally for it. But we’re taking and we’re repurposing staff.”
When asked if that meant there would be less support inside the school buildings, Cordon said that it would balance out.
“(Schools) wouldn’t have that person to serve all those kids, but they don’t have as many kids either,” he said.
Cordon pointed out that educating 221 students was almost like opening an entirely separate remote learning school. Roseburg Public School has eight elementary schools that offer in-person learning to a total of 1,432 students.
Connections Learning is a virtual option offered to students, students who wish to transfer to another virtual charter school will be denied that option.
In 2011, the Oregon Legislature placed a 3% cap on the number of students that are allowed to transfer from a traditional public school district to a virtual public charter school. Roseburg had met that limit and has denied applications requesting to transfer to an online school, and will continue to do so.
Roseburg school district had a soft start for kindergarten on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1, where incoming students could learn the rules of the school.
While the choice to start kindergarten with an orientation, it was also done to assure the district could open to kindergarten through third grade instruction on Oct. 5 as the number of COVID-19 positive people in Douglas County continues to rise. If the district had not reopened to in-person learning and there were more than 30 cases per 100,000 people this week or the test positivity percentage was at or above 5%, the school could not offer in-person education.
Parents with questions are asked to call Dani Jardine, coordinator of teaching and learing, at 541-440-4005 or email email@example.com.