Banks, CORONAVIRUS, EDUCATION

Banks students may not return to school this academic year

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BANKS – Two weeks after schools closed in Oregon by order of Governor Kate Brown, it’s looking more and more like the closure — extended by another order to April 28 — will linger until summer. 

“Today we know there is a very real potential that our students, like in many other states, may not return to school this academic year,” said Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education and Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in a late-night missive to superintendents and principals on Monday, March 30. 

Included in the letter were details of the state’s push to keep Oregon students engaged and moving forward in the academic year, but at a distance. 

“This calls for a shift from providing supplementary education to a formidable effort to provide Distance Learning for All,” said Gill. 

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Districts must have their plans for distance learning in place by Monday, April 13.

It’s a massive challenge for Oregon’s nearly 200 school districts. 

But in Banks, the district had already planned to forge ahead, seeking to bring some certainty for education while awaiting state guidance.

“Though it is not a substitute for daily in-class instruction, the District will begin providing supplementary learning opportunities for students on Friday, April 3rd. The supplementary materials and activities will provide an opportunity for students to review the content and practice the skills they have already been taught,” said Banks School District superintendent Jeff Leo in a March 27 letter to parents and families in the district. 

In light of the new guidance from the DOE, though, it’s uncertain what the district will do to meet the new requirements outlined in a 28 page document

“We are working through the new guidance and putting together our plan. It raises a lot of questions for us as well which we will be working on to find out and best serve the students of Banks School District.,” said Leo in an email to the Banks Post.

Part of the Banks School District is a stone’s throw from the Portland Metro region, with access to good internet to be able to engage in online remote education. 

And part of the district contains some of the most remote communities in Washington County, namely, the Timber community, Hayward, and other areas in the coast range.

With spotty or no internet access for some, and traditional internet access alternatives such as libraries closed, some families will have to rely on physical learning packets, a challenge the district was addressing by providing pickup locations for two week’s worth of printed material for students. 

Other challenges include how to provide education for students with special education needs, students with language barriers, and providing school meals

And other issues, such as how the state plans to graduate the 2020 class of seniors, remain an unknown.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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