Correction: This story previously stated incorrect information about whether Corvallis public schools would be reopening. This error has been fixed. Schools will not be reopening for the remainder of the 2019-20 schoolyear. The Barometer regrets the error.
Following Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s social distancing order in response to COVID-19, all Corvallis public schools and facilities closed on March 24, forcing administrators, teachers and students to change learning techniques to follow social distancing regulations.
K-12 students are expected to stay home for the remainder of the school year, with distance-learning measures put into place on April 6. These learning techniques provide each student with district-issued iPads for elementary and middle schools and Chromebooks for high schools.
“The shift we are making right now to move from our previous school system to one that focuses on distance learning has taken some time to make that transition,” said Corvallis School District Superintendent Ryan Noss. “We are making sure we’re focusing on connection and care primarily, and then [a] continuation of learning.”
According to Noss, students who don’t have internet access, a local company, Comcast, is partnering with CSD to provide access to K-12 students in the district.
“Administrators and teachers have been meeting and are continuing to work on aligning distance learning expectations by grade level and subject matter,” said Brenda Downum, communications coordinator for CSD. “These meetings allow staff to collaborate, create a unified vision of Distance Learning for All, and identify the course essentials that are necessary for students to be successful for the remainder of this school year.”
High school teachers like Catherine Beran of College Hill High School have had some prior experience with a remote learning tool, Odysseyware, but even that software required some in-person updates with students.
“I set up all of my classes in Google Classroom a couple of years ago, so I've had sort of a 50% distance learning model for a while, but I always thought that it was just a way to organize my materials, I never thought a student would actually be trying to complete my class all from home,” said Beran, who teaches biology, chemistry and physics.
Beran said the transition has been made more difficult because of communication issues being that students are expected to contact her via email but are unfamiliar with that because it is not their primary form of communication.
Noss noted that the CSD understands the importance of high school students who need distance learning in order to complete credits, and they will have resources to ensure seniors are able to graduate.
Beyond the shift in how academic content is delivered, other services students rely on have also been adjusted. The district has provided lunches to students since the closure of the schools, serving approximately 400 lunches every day, according to Noss. The community foundation is also putting together food and supplies for families in need, along with childcare provided by the Boys and Girls Club for children of emergency responders.
Although the hope had been to reopen Corvallis public schools on Tuesday, April 28, an announcement made on Wedndesday, April 8 by the Corvallis School District confirmed all schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 schoolyear.
Noss said he hopes teachers and students will be able to be back in school buildings in the fall, but uncertainty still abounds.