Districts preparing for virtual summer school

We checked in with a couple of the larger school districts in Oregon to learn their summer school plans.

PORTLAND, Ore. — We’ve been talking a lot about distance learning during the pandemic and it looks like students who have to go to summer school may be looking at a lot of the same. We checked in with a couple of the larger school districts in Oregon to see what their plans are.

In the Beaverton School District there have been between 900-1,000 high school students and several hundred elementary school students enrolled in summer school in past years. But this year, because of the pandemic, things are different.

“The potential for more students needing summer school is very high,” said Paul Ottum, the online learning specialist and summer school coordinator for the Beaverton School District.

He said summer school, which starts on June 29, will be done virtually. Additionally, he added that each student who has needed a device or internet access, regardless of whether they’re doing summer school, has received it. Ottum said the availability of devices and connectivity allows the district to conduct summer school online.

“In-person class is where we belong and we think that’s the best, but given the circumstance, we’re just doing the best we can,” Ottum said.

He said the district offers summer school programs at the high school level, for multi-lingual students, and special education. Ottum said it’s possible the special education summer school program could be in person, but that’s yet to be determined. There is a fee associated with summer school that ranges from $50-$700. Most families pay between $50-$200. But according to Ottum, no family has been turned away due to financial need.

Ottum said school counselors are already reaching out to students who they think may need more help, especially those already struggling with remote learning. But it won’t be until school ends that Ottum said the district will have a clearer picture of how many students will take part.

“It’s a little bit crazy because we plan, and plan, and plan, then sit and wait. Then grades hit and then it’s an absolute madhouse,” said Ottum.

If a student has an incomplete, through summer school, the district is offering an opportunity to turn that into incomplete into a pass.

In the Salem-Keizer School District, the tentative plan is for summer school to also be done online, mostly.

“For some students there’s just nothing that will replace that interaction in person, so we’re looking at how we can do that safely,” said Lillian Govus, communications director for Salem-Keizer Schools.

If some students do come back to the classroom, there are still a lot of questions on how that can done safely. For instance, how many students will be allowed in each classroom? What about transportation and sanitizing protocols?

“We do anticipate more guidance coming from the state in the next couple weeks to really help us refine those final pieces,” Govus said.

She said the focus will be on high school students.

“For our high schoolers, our focus is on helping them get credits because they’re on a pass/incomplete system. We want to make sure the students who currently have incompletes have the opportunity to come back, work on that grade, get it to a passing grade so that they can move to that next level, earn those credits, and can continue toward that graduation ceremony, whatever year that may be,” said Govus.

It won’t be until after June 11, when Govus said grades come out, that the district will have a better grasp on how many kids may start summer school the following week.

She said all students in the district will keep their devices. Regardless of whether students enroll in summer school, Govus said parents should encourage their kids to take advantage of the many other learning opportunities available online, especially because in-class learning was interrupted by COVID-19.

We reached out Portland Public Schools and were told district officials are in the process of working out summer school plans.

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