Oregon districts getting ready for online school year

School districts throughout Oregon are getting ready for a virtual, online return to school this fall, with varying dates and plans falling in place.

Hood River County

First day of instruction has been moved back to Sept. 14.

Staff formally begins professional development for the distance learning system Sept. 1-4, and students will do individual orientations with teachers Sept. 8-11.

In a letter to parents, the district stated that “in order to support our staff so they can successfully support your students with distance learning, we are dedicating time to our staff to develop their skills and adapt their lessons to facilitate distance learning. The district will use this additional time to ensure that all families have the supplies, technology devices, and internet access they need. Family Orientation activities for each student and family will also be hosted by the district.

“Family Orientation is an opportunity for families to meet their student’s teacher, learn how to access the digital platforms, and review classroom procedures and expectations. Our focus is to support our students, families, and so they have a successful start to the school year in this remote setting.”

Superintendent Rich Polkinghorn said distance learning preparations will yield better results for students and families than what was experienced in the spring COVID closure of schools and switch to distance learning.

He said, “Part of the professional development (sessions) is learning the management system” — in the district’s case Google Classroom. This streamlines it from the multiple platforms in play five months ago.

“(Google Classroom) has a lot of features that were new this spring, and there have been upgrades to programs, making sure teachers know how to use it. That alone is a shift from spring,” Polkinghorn said. “Teachers (had) used many different platforms, and a student might have had two or three platforms,” in the spring.

Polkinghorn added, “All the curriculum we offer in the district has an online component as well, and while normally we might not need it, the teachers would just use the textbook, there is now a whole learning curve about using and making useful the online component of curriculum.”

Polkinghorn said that, under staff development, attention will be put on the pedagogy — how do you teach. “There is lot to it, and as we started to build out the professional development schedule we realized pretty quick we needed to add a day, so we came up with the non-instructional work day."

Asked about having students in (virtual) classrooms a week later than normal, Polkinghorn said, “We saw some relief from the state around required instructional time, and we want to maximize our time with students but we want that time with students to be outstanding, We are taking the time to be planful and thoughtful and engage parents and community so when we do get started we’ll be hitting the ground running.”

Asked, given the changes and staff learning curve, if he thought the district will be “hitting the ground running,” Polkinghorn replied, “I do. I know our teachers and staff really want to do well by our students and there is a lot of commitment by our teachers to do it well. The students deserve it, they need it, the staff needs it, and there is a lot conviction.”

Horizon Christian

Staff return Aug. 31. The Hood River K-12 private school has issued families a detailed school re-opening plan.

Horizon initiated legal action with two other Christian schools on Aug. 10, filing an emergency motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction against Gov. Kate Brown’s K-12 school reopening restrictions. On Aug. 20, a judge denied the TRO at the hearing, granting a recess, which provides an opportunity for an injunction hearing. Horizon will evaluate its case to decide if further legal action will be pursued, according to a press release from the school.

That brings on Plan B for Horizon. Teachers will return to campus Monday, Aug. 31 for in-service training, fine-tuning and focusing on the mission of the school “to provide a quality Biblically-centered education, regardless of the delivery method,” stated the release.

Orientation week for K-12 and home school students will be Sept. 8-11. First day of instruction for all levels will be Sept. 14.

The Dalles

The first day of online instruction for North Wasco County School District 21 is Sept. 3, preceded by parent and student orientations Sept. 1-2.

As mandated by the state, an “operational blueprint” for each school has been approved by the school board. Plans were created “considering the diverse needs and perspectives of students and families North Wasco County School District,” with parent input gathered through school surveys. Information was sent to parents via email, U.S. Mail, and also handed out at meals-to-go distribution sites, according to the district’s blueprint documents, which are posted on the district’s website.

Input was gathered regarding the successes and challenges with the distance learning from the last trimester of the 2019-20 school year, as well as feedback on preferences and comfort level for both in-person and distance learning for the 2020-21 school year. The survey data was utilized to inform planning at the building and district level for the upcoming school year.

“Throughout the planning process we utilized an equity lens, keeping in mind the needs and challenges faced by our underserved populations who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” according to the blueprint. “We also looked at are trimester three grading and engagement data to see which of our populations were disproportionately impacted due to the spring closure.”

An overview of the year’s “comprehensive distance learning” structure is also available on the district's website, as well as detailed reviews by age groups.

K-5th grades: According to the overview, students in kindergarten through fifth grade will be assigned a classroom teach, who will interact with students daily through Google Classroom K-5. Recorded video instruction may also be provided. Student work and deadlines will be the same as the on-site classroom, although some lessons may be modified.

6th-12th grades: Students are scheduled for a regular school day. Classes include both core content and elective options. Students will receive instruction through live and prerecorded videos via Google Classroom and associated tools. Students will have scheduled check-in times for each class period to interact with school staff.

Chromebooks will be assigned to each student who requests one, and the district is working with internet providers to provide a limited number of wifi hotspots or internet services to some families.

In additions, students receiving special education or other services will work with a case worker to assure services are available remotely.

Distance learners will have full use of school services including counseling and intervention services. School meals will be available for pickup and may be delivered by specific bus routes.


Students at Dufur School District No. 29 will start classes Sept. 14. In a letter to students and parents, Superintendent Jack Henderson said, “Following the guidance from state and local health agencies has been and will continue to be a key piece of our decision making.” Henderson noted the district begin the year fully online, and work to transition to in person instruction as quickly as possible. “When we re-open for on-site instruction, families will have the option to continue online learning or attend school in person, it will be the family’s choice,” he said. “The district will support families in the program of their choice. In partnership, we are dedicated to educational excellence and life long learning, emphasizing communication, trust, and respect.”

South Wasco County

Students attending South Wasco County School District No. 1 will begin work, online, beginning Aug. 31, according to Superintendent Ryan Wraught. “While we are disappointed that students will not immediately be returning to school, we agree that this is the best decision for keeping our students, staff and families safe,” Wraught wrote in a letter to parents. “Starting off the school year in this manner provides an exciting opportunity to focus on building relationships with our students. We will also be able to strengthen our online learning systems and ensure they are robust and effective while giving our district additional time to prepare for the return of students to classrooms. This strong start to online learning centered on equity will serve as a stepping stone to the implementation of the hybrid and in-class learning models that we have been preparing and will continue to improve upon. "

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