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Oregon schools may not reopen again this year, rely solely on distance learning

Deputy School Superintendent Colt Gill says, 'We know there is a very real potential that our students ... may not return to school this academic year.'

PORTLAND, Ore. — (The video above is from March 18, about schools prepping for distance learning).

There is a possibility that Oregon students will not return at all to their classrooms for the remainder of the school year, relying instead on online learning, the deputy superintendent of schools announced Monday evening.

A letter outlining the call for only distance learning from Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Colt Gill was sent to superintendents and principals throughout Oregon.

As of Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown has ordered all schools to be closed up to April 28. With spring break over, many district were rolling out distance learning lesson plans this week.

"On March 12 we learned that our children would lose seven school days," Gill wrote. "On March 17 we learned that our children would miss over a month of school. Today we know there is a very real potential that our students, like in many other states, may not return to school this academic year."

Colt was transparent about the challenges facing teachers, their students and parents. Nothing will equal the classroom experience, he said.

"We need the grace and patience of our state’s leaders, our communities, our families, and our educators," he wrote, "as we learn together to move powerfully to ensure care, connection, and continuity of learning happen in entirely new ways for our students."

Gill said all districts should have distance learning in place by April 13, though he acknowledged that many teachers may lack the skill sets initially for online teaching and could substitute with printed packages of lessons.

Knowing what was coming, many districts have been preparing for the switch to distance learning.

Portland Public Schools is scheduled to start distance learning April 6. Parents earlier received a letter outlining how the district planned to launch distance learning.

The Lake Oswego District will start on April 2, and took steps last week to make certain all of its students have a home computer and access to the internet.

Oregon Education Association President John Larson called on lawmakers to make certain that all students have access to the proper technology for distance learning.

"It is crucial that our elected leaders ensure that students aren’t penalized for an inability to thrive under these new circumstances," he said.  

Gill pointed out that children need the learning environment to resume, as they "will lose over the next two and half months – proms, field trips, graduation and award ceremonies, and simple classroom activities that shape lives."

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