INDEPENDENCE— Schools are closed but administrators, teachers and school staff have been working to keep with up with changes in direction from the state while trying to serve students and families.
The Central School District Board of Directors met Monday, with some members calling in to comply with Gov. Kate Brown’s recommendation that Oregonians avoid gatherings of 10 or more people to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The meeting was livestreamed from Western Oregon University, with Superintendent Jennifer Kubista, Business Manager Cec Koontz, board chair Steve Love and board member Jannice Link-Jobe at WOU.
The public was invited to submit comments and questions in advance.
These are unprecedented times, Kubista said.
“We are asking for a major shift in how we do education for students,” she said.
Official word from the state is that schools will be closed until April 28.
“Beyond that decisions have not been made,” Kubista said.
She asks that people be patient.
“(We’re) building distance learning to get to the end of the school year,” she said.
While the governor has not directed that, Kubista said they are watching what is happening in different states that saw cases of COVID-19 before Oregon.
“The virus is still moving in an upward trajectory,” she said.
A committee comprised of administrators, staff and union leaders has been working on addressing the challenges presented by school closures and the executive order for people to stay home.
“We are going to run into some barriers and we are going to work through those,” Kubista said.
Internet and WiFi access is a barrier for some that the district is trying to address.
Some teachers also need to get training to do online teaching.
Distance learning will be a multimedia approach, a combination of work packets mailed to students an online education.
Kubista said as the district plans, they are keeping in mind the variety of situations students and families are in — parents who are essential employees and then must support a student through learning at home, parents who were laid off with concerns of providing, parents who are trying to teach to children of different ages, and families who are sheltered in place and fear that immigration might show up at any time.
The district is still working with the Oregon Department of Education and waiting on guidance for students who have disabilities, are on individual learning plans need other supports.
At press time, there still was not clear direction from the state regarding high school seniors.
“We are still waiting for guidance on high school,” Kubista said. “Hoping it’s going to come this week. We thought it would come last week. Staff is starting to reach out (to students) this week.”
Once the district gets guidance from ODE, they probably will need 24 hours to dive into it and start build plans, she said.
Chromebooks are set to be distributed to students who need them, with preference given to high school students starting Friday.
When proms and graduation may be planned is still unknown.
Kubista said the district staff is growing and learning through these unprecedented challenges.
She compared working through this process like riding a bicycle that’s really wobbly.
Sometimes they’re going to fall off.
“We’re going to have to bandage ourselves and get back on the bike,” she said.