By Elizabeth Miller, OPB
With Oregon schools closed until at least April 28, the state department of education shared guidance Monday night with superintendents, making a move from supplemental learning to “Distance Learning For All.”
In addition to Gov. Kate Brown’s order to stay home, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said school may be out for longer than a month.
“We also foresee the strong possibility that our students may not come back through our school house doors this academic year,” Gill said in a message to superintendents.
Since Brown ordered schools closed March 12, districts have offered free, optional resources for families to utilize during the school closure.
Now back from spring break, the state’s guidance offers a more structured look at how schools should operate in April — and perhaps, through the end of the school year.
The state’s guidelines for families include recommended daily instructional times:
- Grade K–1: 45 minutes
- Grades 2–3: 60 minutes
- Grades 4–5: 90 minutes
- Grades 6–12: 30 minutes per teacher (3 hours in a day)
ODE is working on an instructional time requirement adjustment for the school closures.
For high schools students, schools are advised to keep credit-earning options the same as they would in a physical school setting.
“Districts may want to consider the full variety of options to ensure students have clear pathways to earning credits and meeting graduation requirements” including online coursework, passing an advanced test or completing a portfolio.
ODE has yet to release guidance on graduation requirements for seniors in the Class of 2020.
State testing has already been canceled for the year. The state submitted a federal waiver that received approval Friday.
The guidelines also stress communication between families, caregivers and school personnel, and ODE’s guidance emphasizes that districts should prioritize strong relationships and communication between families, students and schools.
“Outreach from a known educator and ongoing connection through phone, paper/pencil communication, online, or other means will serve as the heartbeat for distance learning,” according to ODE.
As districts gear up for an April 13 “Distance Learning for All” launch date, ODE said districts should continue to provide supplemental resources and focus on reconnecting with students.
The statewide teachers union signaled a willingness to work with state and district leaders to implement the expanded shift toward distance learning throughout Oregon’s public schools. But in a statement, Oregon Education Association president John Larson cautioned “it is crucial that our elected leaders ensure that students aren’t penalized for an inability to thrive under these new circumstances.”
Larson underscored a concern shared by many educators and administrators — that the challenges facing students from low-income families or in circumstances can make online learning particularly difficult.
“With some students lacking the proper technology, connectivity, resources, or time to fully engage with a distance learning model school districts must acknowledge and incorporate that reality into their Distance Learning for All plans,” Larson said.
It’s unclear how this new guidance will affect current plans for districts across the state. While some districts have been waiting for ODE’s guidance, others have moved ahead with plans to start distance learning as early as Wednesday, with some school districts spending this week delivering materials for students and training teachers on technology before launching next week.