The Corvallis School District (CSD) released its plans for fall amidst the coronavirus pandemic, going online-only for the first six weeks of classes. Then, if COVID-19 numbers permit it, families can decide between a hybrid of in-person and remote teaching, or opt to stay online for the rest of the school year.
The new plan has raised concerns among community members regarding internet access, childcare and resources for students facing poverty and homelessness. Superintendent of CSD, Ryan Noss, acknowledged these concerns in a recent interview with The Corvallis Advocate.
Questions about internet access were initially raised and addressed in the spring, when remote learning first began at the school district. As Noss explained, families were reached out to in the spring to identify who was in need, and those in need were provided with hotspots.
A few schools in the district also increased the bandwidth of their internet, allowing families to access online materials from the parking lots of Mountainview Elementary, Linus Pauling Middle and Lincoln Elementary. In addition to providing access to the internet, CSD also provided technologies like iPads and Chromebooks to families who needed them. All of these resources will continue to be available in the fall.
Remote learning without supervision
Community members have asked how CSD will be helping students who live in single-parent or two-income households and will therefore not have supervision during the school day during remote learning.
Noss explained that to assist these families, there will be more synchronous learning and more face-to-face time with teachers in the fall.
“That is really a challenge for our community, being able to address the childcare piece,” Noss said. “Scheduling will look different for families, requiring students to spend more time face-to-face with teachers.”
Free & reduced lunches
In March, 33.5 percent of students in CSD utilized the Free & Reduced Lunch program, meaning that many relied on meals provided by the schools for nutritional supplement. Concerns have been raised about how these students will continue to be supported nutritionally by the school district if schools aren’t in session.
Noss explained that CSD has been providing meal services through the summer and will continue to do so in the fall at various meal delivery sites. All children under the age of 18 are eligible for receiving these free meals at program locations.
Homeless access to school
A group within the district is working to maintain connections with students and their families who are facing homelessness, as well as providing resources for them through the district and the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 has made maintaining these connections more difficult, Noss asserted, “I feel like that’s an area that’s been really strong and solid throughout all of this.”
The social aspect of schooling
One of Noss’ main concerns about CSD continuing to be remote is the loss of relationships fostered between students with their peers and teachers. Noss said that this is an issue the school district has been working hard to find solutions to.
One of these solutions has been the forming of groups at the district that focus on maintaining connections with students – one focuses on equity and the other is concerned with students’ social-emotional wellbeing.
He said, “This has been a priority for us, and will continue to be a priority for us.”
Students with special needs
Noss also acknowledged that COVID-19 has brought other health issue to light, and has shown communities the important place schools hold in our communities.
“I think it’s highlighted societal issues around access, I think it’s highlighted challenges that we face, that our kids face, when they don’t have access to schools…I think it’s also highlighted what schools do really well,” Noss said. “I think it’s highlighted the ways that schools maintain connections, provide mental health services, help SPED [Special Education] students, and provide them with caring, adult connections.”
He continued, “While I know that those things are limited right now, it also highlights some of the things that we’ve really done well over time, and our need to get back to that.”
The Corvallis community and COVID-19
The process of switching CSD to remote learning has also brought about more important questions for Noss, such as “How do we as a community continue to respond to COVID?” and “How do we recognize that this is difficult and challenging for everybody, and understand that we are working as a collective to get past this?”
Noss highlighted that community support is vital to CSD as everyone in Corvallis faces this crisis. More specifically, he said that community members can continue to donate to the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation to help students facing poverty and homelessness. The community needs to continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines: social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently.
“Those are the things that are going to allow us to get back into schools in the future,” Noss said.
Noss is also slated to answer questions from the public at The Advocate’s next CitySpeak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18.