COOS BAY — Schools are bracing for a future with the new coronavirus.
Three months ago, schools across the state shut down their buildings as the pandemic worsened. From there, school administrators created distance learning methods for students to finish the academic year from home and avoid spreading the virus.
Now, with summer break starting for most school districts, administrative teams are getting ready to prepare for what classes will look like when they starts again in August.
Bryan Trendell, superintendent for the Coos Bay School District, said every district is waiting on guidance from the Oregon Department of Education. That guidance is expected to be released today. Trendell said his district’s reopening plan will depend on that guidance, as well as guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and the governor’s office.
“…There’s three points on the continuum we could be at,” Trendell said of potential options for school in the fall.
The first, he said, is to have school in session with students back in the building.
“The other end of that is distance learning where no one is in the building,” he said of the second option. “We’ve done (that) this past spring and we’ve learned a lot. … If we were forced to go down that road in the fall, we would make some changes to make it a better educational experience like the amount of work, accountability of that work, things that we rushed to get it going and found out we need to do a better job.”
If continued distance learning is decided on for the fall, Trendell said there will be changes made. Some of those changes would also include more support for staff.
“The third option is right in the middle,” Trendell listed. “…We (would) have a hybrid situation where half the students are at school at any given time and could be an AM/PM schedule or an every-other-day schedule. In some states and countries, there is a model being used where students go to school for a week and work from home for a week. We haven’t decided on which model yet….”
Until guidance is passed along, Trendell said it is hard to predict what may happen as countries open up and people get back to a somewhat “business-as-usual” routine.
“Things can change between now and August,” he said. “The real message is we have to be ready and plan to do any one of the three (options). We have a lot of work to do this summer.”
Looking back at the past few months, Trendell said it has been a learning experience.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been an ideal situation but we’ve learned a lot about distance learning, about what families can handle at home,” he said. “I think that going into next year there will be a lot of anxious parents and people about sending kids back to school. We get that and hear that ….”
Trendell promised that the district will look at ways to take care of every family, adding that they don’t want people to panic and enroll their children in an online school.
“We can take care of curriculum for them in an online fashion and work hard to develop that so we can take care of them and those who embrace the hybrid model, because I think there will be some who want that and some who want kids back in school,” he said, adding that the district will follow the guidelines as they come out.
He said the district’s administrative team will work on preparations in June before going on summer break for part of July.
“Then when administration comes back in August and some staff for committees, we will plan and prepare,” he said. “We will work hard to meet the needs of everyone. What we’re hearing from the state is that it will be district by district and where you’re located, how things are going as far as cases in your area. And we have to be ready to change at any given moment should a rise in cases develop.”