ONTARIO — The long-awaited guidance that school districts across the state have been waiting for came in on Monday night, as the Oregon Department of Education posted its Extended School Closure Guidance.
The guidance, which school districts have been anticipating for over a week, was posted at about 9 p.m. on Monday.
The guidance started with a message from Colt Gill, ODE Director and Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction”
“We started with the idea that our children would miss a few days of school and that some days might be made up in the summer – something that is normal in Oregon which regularly encounters snow days and forest fires that close schools for a few days each year,” Gill wrote.
In his message, Gill added that every school district needs to be ready for the likelihood that there will not be any in-person classes taught for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
“We also foresee the strong possibility that our students may not come back through our school house doors this academic year,” he wrote.
In its guidance, ODE included a sample instructional day, broken down by grade levels. For high school, for example, the recommendation is to have students complete three hours of instruction per day, with about 30 minutes per subject. On top of this, there would be one to two hours of learning and supplemental activities (reading, listening to audio books and post-secondary education planning), and then two hours of meeting nutritional and wellness needs (meals and breaks).
The complete breakdown of the ODE’s sample instructional day can be found online at: bit.ly/ODESampleDay
The guidelines that ODE sent out did not directly address how the state plans on getting the senior class graduated this spring.
During Monday’s meeting of the Ontario School District Board of Directors, Ontario Superintendent Nicole Albisu gave the Board an update on what the district is going through currently.
The district is looking to start distance learning on Wednesday. Albisu mentioned that there is a high likelihood that there will not be any new material taught to students through distance learning, rather students will be going over material taught earlier in the school year.
Ontario School District added a “Remote Learning” tab to its homepage which serves as a hub for all distance learning instruction.
One item, brought up by Board member Eric Evans, was kids’ access to the Internet at home. Albisu said that while the district has been surveying students to figure out who has Internet access, they will not know for sure until they actually start distance learning.
Albisu said the district is looking into many options, including increasing signal strength at all its facilities, making it so parents are able to use their personal phones as WiFi hotspots and placing temporary hotspots around Ontario.
“We have thought outside the box, so far,” Albisu exclaimed. “But we need to get them started, then dive into finding all the families in need.”
One other option that was made available for those with the means, was that the Ontario Recreation District is making its WiFi connection at the Ontario Splash Park open for people to use. Evers, who is also a board member of the Ontario Recreation District, made it clear that the recreation district’s WiFi can be accessed with the password “sportsball!” from the parking lot.
Another option that Ontario is adding to its distance learning, is issuing instructional paperwork via the bus routes. The district has received several mailboxes from The Argus Observer, which can be used by the students to safely drop off their assignments with minimal person-to-person contact.