Following a summer of frustration regarding how and when schools in Oregon will be able to reopen, Adrian School Board of Directors member Jake Speelmon saw an email enter his inbox that turned out to be the final straw.
During the Board Comments section of Thursday's meeting, Speelmon said he received an email for mandatory training that board members must take before the 2020-21 school year.
Speelmon's anger at the training (which is required for all school employees and mandatory reporters) stemmed from board members being required to do certain things, but ultimately feeling powerless when it comes to reopening the school districts they serve.
After discussing his anger, he asked the board for a consensus that they meet in an open special session at a later date with legal counsel with the ultimate goal to be the Adrian School Board of Directors suing the Oregon Department of Education for "failing to allow [the board] to provide an adequate education to the students in [Adrian School District]."
The discussion of legal action during Thursday night's meeting, which took place in the old Adrian High School gym, followed a lengthy public comment section where multiple Adrian parents and teachers were able to voice their concerns about the looming return to distance learning.
One of the biggest worries that parents of Adrian had was that Adrian School District is not able to provide child care to students whose parents have to work during the day. Superintendent Kevin Purnell said that was one of the administration's biggest frustrations of the summer, as well, since there is also no other certified child care facility in Adrian.
Speelmon added that he is worried that being forced into comprehensive distance learning will mean a lot of students (like English Language Learners and those on Individualized Education Programs) will be left behind, even if they are allowed to come to school in small groups.
"It's so frustrating," Speelmon said. "People are so impassioned and enraged. We have parents who have to work to pay their bills, and are going to have to leave their children at home unattended."
Other board members chimed in, frustrated that the metrics-based reopening plan that ODE announced in late July puts Adrian under the umbrella of Malheur County for positive cases of COVID-19.
"We, as a board, feel totally hamstrung," said School Board Chairman Ryan Martin.
He posed that the reopening metrics should be based on zip code. Martin said he believes that Adrian School District (which serves nearly 300 total students) can safely reopen.
"Too many hoops can uninspire the teachers," he said. "Too many rules will frustrate the kids."
• Following a unanimous approval by the board, Adrian School District will soon be working on negotiating a price for use of their dorms this school year. The company that is looking to use the facility: Snake River Pack and Ship.
For the 2020-21 school year, students will not be able to stay in the dormitory at Adrian the Adrian School District dorm, so Purnell said the facility will be converted to a transfer station for shipping. The potential renter for the dorms at Adrian School District is a business called Snake River Pack and Ship, which would be an Amazon repacking business. The company is planning on contracting with third-party sellers who sell goods through Amazon, and then package those goods for Amazon.
During a normal year, Purnell said anywhere between six and eight students will use the dorms as they attend school during the week.
Having the company use the facility is part of the Adrian 2040 initiative, an effort started in 2018 to make sure that Adrian is still a healthy community in 20 years.
• Unlike many other districts in Malheur County, Adrian School District is not pushing its starting date back to the very end of the month. At a previous meeting, the Adrian School Board said it did not want to move the start date back so that students could be back to school.
To accommodate that, the board unanimously approved the school's calendar, which says the 20-21 school year will start on Aug. 24 through a "soft opening" until Aug. 31. In the soft opening, the school district will have teachers and parents working together to make sure everyone knows how to navigate distance learning.