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Estacada School District implementing virtual learning, providing free meals delivered on bus routes

The district sent 800 middle and high school students home with Chromebook laptops. Kids without internet access got hot spots to take home.

ESTACADA, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Education says public schools can't go to online classes unless everyone has access.

Distance learning, with assignments and grades, is nearly impossible for many districts because every student must have equal opportunity to learn the same as they would in a brick and mortar school. That can become a challenge when you factor in disabilities or access to technology.

But one district is making it happen.

“I do think having a smaller district allows us to be a bit more nimble,” said Maggie Kelly, communications director for the Estacada School District.

About 1,800 kids go to school there and district leaders have found a way to make distance learning work equitably.

Elementary school kids took home work packets, while the 800 middle and high school students got Chromebook laptops to take home. Students are learning the same things they'd be learning in the classroom and are required to check in with their teachers every day.

“We also were able to identify students that do not have internet. Equity is a big issue for us, so we distributed hot spots. We distributed about 80 hot spots to serve students that did not have internet,” said Kelly.


She said the district closed preemptively last Monday to figure out how to address distance learning, and so far so good.

Kelly said the district had about 80% attendance through its online learning platform. That percentage is better than the 75% attendance rate at school last Friday.

The district had 800 Chromebooks on hand because it had already planned for a similar situation that might keep kids out of school: inclement weather. The internet hot spots were paid for by emergency money already set aside.

In addition to the online distance learning, the district is also making sure hundreds of kids get sack lunches. It’s crucial since half of the children in the district are on free or reduced lunch. The food is getting delivered on regular bus routes.

“There's no burgers and pizza but you're still getting high quality wraps and sandwiches,” said Kelly.

The plan moving forward is fluid, but Kelly said the Estacada School District is ready for the long haul. Whatever happens, it’ll continue feeding students and teachers are working to create additional virtual class work.

RELATED: Where Portland-area families can find free grab-and-go kids meals during school shutdown

Other individual schools in the area have also been able to implement virtual learning. While some of the bigger districts do not have the capability for equitable online school, they do have online learning resources parents can use to help their kids continue to learn.

An update on other Oregon school districts

Parents got quite the shock on Tuesday after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced kids in the state won't be heading back to school until April 29 at the earliest.

We reached out to a number of districts, including Portland Public Schools, Salem-Keizer Schools, and Beaverton Schools. Those districts are trying to figure out a plan moving forward and are hoping for more guidance from the state.

Two big topics of discussion: online learning and graduation for high school seniors. Online learning is difficult or nearly impossible for many of the larger districts because it has to be done equitably.

When we get more information, we'll let you know.

RELATED: Portland Public Schools serves up thousands of free breakfasts, lunches during school shutdown

RELATED: Real-time coronavirus updates: Portland considers shelter in place order

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