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Some students still falling through the cracks with distance learning | Inside Woodlawn Ep. 9

Distance learning started for students and teachers at Portland's Woodlawn Elementary on April 6, but daily participation is just 25 percent.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than six weeks into remote learning and less than four weeks to go until the end of the school year, some Woodlawn Elementary School students are just getting started on distance learning. Others haven’t been able to log on at all.

Distance learning officially started for Woodlawn students and teachers on April 6. While 75 percent of Woodlawn students logged on at least once in the past week, daily participation is still at just 25 percent, according to principal Andrea Porter-Lopez.

Woodlawn assistant principal Alma Velasquez said they’ve dropped off Chromebooks and hotspots to families who need them but that solved just part of the problem.

“What's been trickier is the know-how in terms of ‘how do I actually get on?’ and then the life circumstances that allow you to do that,” said Velasquez.

Velasquez said distance learning has been tough for many of the Spanish-speaking families at Woodlawn because the programs and platforms are in English.

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Twenty percent of the 328 students at Woodlawn identify as Hispanic/Latino, according to the most recent state data, and 12 percent speak Spanish as their first language.

Velasquez created videos in Spanish explaining how families can log on, post assignments and upload videos, but it’s still been a challenge.

“It can be a very cumbersome process even when you speak the same language and you're trying to communicate with somebody,” said Velasquez. “If you haven't yet had access to a computer before, knowing how to scroll down, knowing where to click, how to make, you know, all of us can have problems figuring out a track pad.”

Velasquez has spent dozens of hours over the last few weeks talking families through the process over the phone and through video conferencing.

Porter-Lopez used a GoPro to record a recent video call Velasquez had with a Woodlawn family trying to get online for weeks.

Pablito is in second grade and his sister Mari is in kindergarten.

After 20 minutes of technical difficulties, their mom was able to get on the video call and Velasquez was able to walk them through the learning platform.

“Every day we’re able to get one more family connected is a win. Pretty soon, all our kids here will be connected and get to work online with their classes,” said Velasquez.

RELATED: “I miss my friends.” Students share thoughts and advice on Covid-19 | Inside Woodlawn Ep. 7

Velasquez checked in with the family a day later in person when she dropped off food and a packet of paper assignments in case they want a break from the computer. It's something 30 other Woodlawn families also got that day.

Pablito told her he was happy to be able to log on see his friends and his mother was extremely thankful for her efforts.

Velasquez said the phone calls, video calls and in-person visits are all worth it, so kids can learn remotely for the rest of the year or longer if distance learning continues this fall.

“Everybody knows how, so that there's no more loss. I just want to in my mind be ready for that possibility because we know how to do school the old-fashioned way, the traditional way, but we need to make sure that we also know how to this way,” said Velasquez.

About Inside Woodlawn:

KGW investigative reporter Cristin Severance and photojournalists Gene Cotton and Kurt Austin were granted remarkable access to spend the 2019-2020 school year chronicling life inside Woodlawn Elementary School in Northeast Portland. Their reporting offers a rich view of how teachers, administrators, school staff and parents overcome many challenges to serve students. Join us as KGW News goes Inside Woodlawn.

Please follow our year-long series on YouTube, Facebook and by using #insidewoodlawn on Twitter and Instagram.


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