Schools in the Oregon School District are quiet. But there’s still a lot of learning going on.
Since Dane County ordered all schools to close starting Monday, March 16, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a new normal for educators, students and parents.
Schools statewide will be shut down for an indefinite period of time, as Gov. Tony Evers has ordered the closure for the duration of the public health emergency.
After a welcome pause this week for spring break, they’ll be back at it – teaching and learning in their new home classrooms.
For administrators, the week of March 16-20 was focused on reaching out to families and connecting with students to ensure all district families are ready to access distance learning when it starts Monday, March 30, District communications director Erika Mundinger told the Observer in an email.
The district distributed Chromebooks that week in a drive-through format to ensure students had the proper technology, and staff have been sharing a variety of optional activities and resources for students to do at home.
“We will continue to review and make adjustments to distance learning as we begin offering this new mode of instruction,” she wrote.
With all schools closed, the district office is the last OSD building still open. Mundinger said staff there have had to take steps to modify their day-to-day work contacts, but intend to remain open as long as advised.
“We know it is so important to uphold health recommendations, including social distancing and avoiding large groups,” she wrote. “District leadership has continued to stay in touch frequently with the use of video conferences and phone calls.”
OHS technology education teacher Erik Haakenson said the response of industry and other technology educators across the state has been outstanding.
“Technology educators have continued to share course resources for many different classes from automotive technology to electronics,” he wrote the Observer in an email. “This change has further pushed us to rely on our online course organization and look for creative ways for students to complete projects using common household items.”
Oregon High School art teacher Mike Derrick spent much of the last week modifying curriculum and learning targets to be applicable with distance learning. He made several videos to send students, reviewing goals for their projects.
“I have been channeling Bob Ross,” he quipped. “I try to find good on-line resources to share, even art related movies.”
District deputy superintendent Leslie Bergstrom, who will succeed Busler in July as superintendent, told the Observer in an email it’s been inspiring to see how flexible everyone has been.
“We are so proud of the collaboration that staff is using to share and develop resources to prepare for distance learning,” she wrote.
The district posted a video Friday from Busler to all parents. He talked about the disruption, and also the kindness and caring of people in the community.
“Together we are in uncharted waters,” he said. “I am confident we will move forward in this challenge the way we always do, as a community.”