COOS COUNTY ─ With COVID-19 restrictions loosened for schools, many students have returned from winter break and are back in classrooms.
“A lot of students have returned … not very many stayed home,” said Tim Sweeney, superintendent at the Coquille School District. “That’s a positive sign I think… There’s a lot of energy and excitement.”
And as upper grades are brought back to campus in the upcoming weeks, not everyone will need to transition away from Comprehensive Distance Learning.
“…There are some students doing really well with the Comprehensive Distance Learning and are allowed to continue and are not required to attend school,” said Doug Ardiana, superintendent at Bandon School District.
Of the 618 students enrolled in Bandon, he said 106 are being allowed to continue distance learning instead of having to return to the classroom.
“We’re fortunate that our teachers are willing to work with us to engage CDL for folks with some concerns about in-person learning,” Ardiana said.
Even though a number of students have excelled with the distance learning program, Ardiana said he has “huge concern” for 6 to 8 percent of students currently unengaged and not doing their work.
“I recently have done home visits because people have not answered the phone,” he said. “I’ve gone to houses and talked to parents and students about why they aren’t doing their work or are not involved. I know two out of three (where) it has made a difference.”
At the North Bend School District, Superintendent Kevin Bogatin said there are “more than a couple kids that need support” from the difficulties of distance learning. To help, he said the district is discussing options with the goal to get students to graduate.
“I put aside some of our COVID federal money for summer school, for extended days in the future,” he said. “Our seniors are resilient. They’ve been good at understanding we’re in the midst of a pandemic and have been good at understanding (they) can’t do what a normal senior class would be doing.”
He added the district has also done outreach to help struggling students get what they need and “shepherd them through.”
In Bandon, Ardiana said the first few days back from winter break have “been great” so far and that he is seeing excitement on the faces of students and teachers.
“It’s good to see our kids bounce down the road to go to their music classes, running around with their band instruments and books,” he said. “It’s getting back to the focus of our school.”
In the Coquille School District, Sweeney echoed that it is good to see students back. But he added he was also glad to have daycare again. He said for most of the year, the Coquille School District has struggled to cover all the daycare needs for families and staff but there is now a plan in place starting this week.
“When we shut down a week early in December, we had cross-contamination from one group to another, which had a lot of students and staff being quarantined,” Sweeney said. “We have opened up classrooms for a daycare at the Lutheran Church across the street from Coquille Valley Elementary and opened up a daycare at Winter Lakes Elementary.”
This is in addition to the multiple daycares set up at Lincoln Elementary. Sweeney said the daycare problem was solved by Amy Flora, principal at Lincoln Elementary.
“…It was a headache and she spent much of her winter break solving that problem,” Sweeney said. “I’m proud of her for the work she has done. It was not an easy task.”
On Monday next week, more students will return to the Winter Lakes High School and Coquille Junior and Senior High School. Sweeney said “we will see how many return then. We’re feeling really good about where we are….”
He added, “There is some trepidation because we don’t know what the virus will do, but I’m excited we will see more kids. And the kids and families are excited, and that makes me feel good.”
One day at a time
For the North Bend School District, just like many of the others along the South Coast, older grades will return to the classroom over the next few weeks. Kindergarten through 3rd Grade returned first from the break to the now-regular hybrid schedule. On Jan. 19, 4th and 5th grade will return, and students at North Bend Middle School will be back during the last week of the month.
“For high school, we have a tentative date for Feb. 8, but that may change,” Bogatin said.
He described how teachers have been creative in making sure students could still get the most out of their classes, including ones that typically need in-person instruction such as band, choir and the district’s popular culinary program.
“(Culinary teacher) Frank Murphy has set up an elaborate video culinary experience, doing lessons and asking kids to do stuff along at home,” Bogatin said. “(Murphy) brings in small groups to teach things life knife skills, which can’t be done online.”
For the band and choir courses, virtual playing has impressed Bogatin and the school board.
“I shared one (video) at the last board meeting,” Bogatin said. “(The band) has always been good and they’re being creative… We want kids in our buildings and know, especially in the middle and high school, (students) need social experiences… There is a bit of a wait-and-see because the county (COVID-19) numbers are still pretty high, but we’re watching pretty carefully here.”