It’s starting to look a lot like fall.
Yet the vast majority of Oregon’s classrooms remain empty as the coronavirus pandemic continues. And although some schools have welcomed younger students back into schools, many more are located in counties where case counts are too high to meet state metrics for reopening.
State and local education officials have emphasized the new school year will look much different than any other.
And they’ve been right: From the pandemic to continued protests against systemic justice and police brutality to historic wildfires that displaced hundreds across the state, fall 2020 is among the most news-laden, school-hampering seasons in history.
We’ve got all of that and more in this jumbo-sized education roundup. Here’s the biggest news from across the state this week:
Education stories from the Portland area:
Portland Public Schools is providing only 4 1/2 hours per week of synchronous instruction for its middle school students. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the state’s largest district are allowed six 45-minute periods of face-time with their teachers on Mondays and Tuesdays and none after that.
Meanwhile, middle schoolers in neighboring Beaverton have four periods in which they get direct contact with their teachers on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. And in McMinnville, teachers touch base with their students daily.
Portland parents say it’s unfair.
“I’m not expecting that the teacher put on some amazing lesson on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. But there should be a check-in. Something,” Kara Colley, whose daughter attends West Sylvan Middle School, told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Meanwhile, several Portland-area districts continue to grapple with racist intrusions during online school events. The latest instance came during a back-to-school event at Ron Russell Middle School, where someone logged into the digital meeting and went on a racist tirade, The Portland Tribune reports.
Officials in Lake Oswego and Portland had previously reported intruders logging into classroom sessions and leaving racist messages in the chats.
Experts say the best way to avoid interruptions in Zoom is to lock the session or require a password to enter. Hosts can also close person-to-person chats in order to mitigate bullying.
From across the state:
In Clatsop County, an outbreak of 77 new cases at a local seafood cannery, prompting education officials in Warrenton to close school buildings until at least Oct. 9. Until this week, staff and faculty were allowed inside, The Daily Astorian reports. Officials in nearby Astoria had planned to begin in-person instruction for its youngest students Oct. 1. But the state requires that counties see no more than 30 cases per 100,000 residents for three consecutive weeks before reopening to kindergartners, first-, second- and third-graders. Last week, Clatsop County logged an average of 43 new cases per day, according to state figures.
In the southern coast city of Brookings, officials last weekend announced one case tied to an elementary school. Brookings-Harbor district Superintendent David Marshall in a note to families said people in the building were exposed by “individuals” but did not specify whether the case was linked to students, staff or faculty.
So far, coronavirus cases have been linked to three school districts across the state, Brad Schmidt of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports.
For this week’s episode of the NPR program “It’s Been a Minute,” host Sam Sanders heard from dozens of educators across the country about teaching in the age of COVID and spoke at length with two — one in Utah and another in Texas.
Their experiences differ wildly on everything from their working conditions to the reasons one of them feels perfectly comfortable speaking on the record while the other cannot. (Fun fact: Sanders briefly worked for Oregon Public Broadcasting.)
On a similar note:
Teachers! We want to hear from you. Tell us what fall has been like. How is your day-to-day? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far this year? What about some of the small victories you’ve notched? Email Eder or give him a call: 503-221-4344.
More education headlines from The Oregonian/OregonLive:
2 SW Washington schools close due to COVID-19 (The Associated Press)
Education coverage from other Portland-area media:
Online learning camp taught by Washington County students (The Beaverton Valley Times)
One Latina educator’s personal, professional distance learning challenges (The Portland Tribune)
And across the state:
Parents urge Baker school board to bring students back to classrooms (The Baker City Herald)
Rising COVID cases could cancel Bend-La Pine’s K-3 reopening plans (The Bend Bulletin)
Lake County School District begins in-person instruction (The Lake County Examiner)
COVID-19 spike means some Douglas County schools must delay in-person learning plans (The Roseburg News-Review)
Corvallis school board discusses land transfer with Philomath, emphasis on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (The Corvallis Gazette-Times)
Kids under stress as wildfire evacuations join pandemic, recession and no in-person school (The Salem Reporter/Pamplin)
Parents can get time off work to help with distance learning. Here’s how (The Salem Statesman Journal)
Eder is The Oregonian’s education reporter. Do you have a tip about Portland Public Schools? Email email@example.com.