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School districts give update on distance learning and plans moving forward

Now a month into distance learning across Oregon lets check in with school districts to see how things are going.

PORTLAND, Ore. — We are now a month into the official start of distance learning across Oregon, so we decided to check in with a handful of school districts to see how things are going.

We touched base with Portland Public Schools, Salem-Keizer, Beaverton, Vancouver, and Lincoln County Schools.

Portland Public Schools

At PPS, the largest school district in the State of Oregon, a spokesperson said they’ve had both challenges and success.

The biggest hurdle is still making sure all its students have access to education, whether that's online or through paper packets.

Right now district staff are planning multiple scenarios for the start of school next fall.

Meantime, just last week it was decided that teachers in the district will be furloughed one day a week through July.

Salem-Keizer Schools

In the Salem-Keizer School District, the second-largest district in the state, staff are also working hard to continue connecting with students and helping families.

About 20,000 meals are being served up each day. So far more than 600,000 meals have gone out with almost 1,700 food boxes distributed to families. Educators have also made about 222,000 phone calls to families totaling roughly 14,000 hours.

But there are still hurdles. One of them is that teachers haven't been able to touch base with 150 high school students. So the district has tried sending postcards, and has more recently started knocking on doors in an effort to connect.

“Out of 10,000 students, 150 is a pretty good ratio. But we're not gonna be happy until we've made contact with all our students,” said Lillian Govus, director of community relations for the Salem-Keizer School District.

She said over the next month, the focus will be on seniors. They are picking up their caps and gowns. 

Credit: Salem-Keizer School District
Seniors in the Salem-Keizer School District pick up caps and gowns for graduation

The hope is that the district will be able to do an in-person graduation in August. For now, the biggest priority is making sure about 500 seniors who are credit shy still get to graduate.

“Making sure they have time, attention, access and the support they need to get through,” Govus said.

Beaverton Schools

In the Beaverton School District, the priority is still to connect with every kid in the district in order to check on them and see how they're doing.

It's almost the end of the school year, so the goal is also to make sure seniors graduate. The majority of them will.

But Maureen Wheeler, spokesperson for the Beaverton School District, said the biggest wrinkle right now will be one less day of learning and teaching each week. District staff will be furloughed every Friday starting this Friday through July 24.

Lincoln County Schools

On the Oregon coast in the Lincoln County School District, there are also hurdles.

"Our county faces a tremendous level of unemployment, so our families are struggling. Our number one priority is to stay connected with them," said Dr. Katie Barrett, elementary teaching & learning administrator for the Lincoln County Schools.

Barrett also said staff will be figuring out ways to address the gaps in learning created during the pandemic. Looking ahead to the start of school next year, she said the district is in the process of creating several different plans depending on what happens at the state level.

Vancouver Schools

The Vancouver School District said it's in the process of surveying its families about remote learning. The results will help the district adjust and improve distance learning for its students.

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