Some Oregon schools face challenges in move to online learning

Originally aired on KPTV – March 27, 2020

As school districts around the state continue to move forward with online learning programs, with schools closed due to COVID-19, there have been bumps in the road and questions along the way.

A primary hurdle has been making sure all students have access, and that learning is done in a way that is fair and equitable for everyone. In Hillsboro, teachers will be compiling materials for online learning next week, with students starting online activities as early as next Wednesday.

“What that will be, initially, is a set of grade-level packets that we had folks working on the week of March 16,” Beth Graser, a district spokesperson, said.

The district will also be handing out Chromebooks for students that need them next week, with the hope that online lessons will start April 6.

“We have enough devices to ensure that every student who needs one gets one,” Graser said. “The trickier element is going to be internet connectivity. We do have 1500 mifi devices, wireless hotspots that are on order. But we would not be able to hand all those out until mid-April.”

For schools that have been online the entire year, like Oregon Virtual Academy, there have been different questions. Reports this week indicated virtual schools should have been closed under the Governor’s school closure order.

“Earlier in the week, we had some misinformation come out that made it look like we had to close, and then we had formal guidance come out yesterday evening that said, ‘no, we can continue to operate,” Nicholaus Sutherland, ORVA’s executive director, said.

Although normal classes can resume, the virtual school has been told it won’t be able to enroll any new students as of March 26.

“We still had room in our K-5 for probably 60-70 new students, but with the new guidance, we actually closed our enrollment portal,” Sutherland said.

Brick-and-mortar schools, meanwhile, are still grappling with equity concerns.

In Hillsboro, because the district can’t guarantee all students’ needs will be met through online learning, lessons for the rest of the year won’t be graded, and students will primarily be reviewing or expanding on materials they’ve already been introduced to.

“What we’re providing is really considered supplementary learning materials to just keep students’ skills up, to review things that they’ve already learned,” Graser said.

A spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education said ODE will release guidance for grading and curriculum for online learning in the next several days.

In Portland Public Schools, teachers will spend next week fine-tuning their online learning programs, with students beginning online classes the next week.

To learn more about Oregon Virtual Academy, visit https://orva.k12.com/

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