An Update on Comprehensive Distance Learning in NCSD

Rex+Putnam+High+School

Rex Putnam High School

Madison Davis, Senior Reporter

 

The hallways are dark and appear to be abandoned, a building that used to be filled with groups of students chatting amongst their friends now feels like the setting of a post-apocalyptic movie that describes Rex Putnam history teacher Mr.Alper. Along with a few other teachers, Alper goes into school to teach his online classes. While he occasionally bumps into his colleagues every so often, (from six-feet apart of course) he is the only teacher on the side of the building where his classroom is located. His mornings include walking through a cafeteria with folded up tables, venturing up the used-to-be-crowded stairs, and walking into his student-less classroom. 

 

March 13th will be the one-year anniversary of the day the world changed for students in the North Clackamas School District (NCSD). The last day in a physical school building for students took place almost 365 days ago. Since then, the school district has transitioned to online learning and all of its students have spent the 2020-2021 school year online communicating through Google Classroom and Google Meets to ensure the safety of the community as students and staff try to work through the challenges the Covid-19 Pandemic has thrown at them. 

For Mr.Alper, “this has all been a learning process”. Having to take his lesson plans and formatting them to be presented online while also making them engaging for his students has proven to be quite the obstacle. But for him, the greatest challenge has been not being able to see his students, “It’s hard, it’s brutal in some ways”. Alper was drawn to this career because he loves being around people and interacting with them, but online learning has taken that away. “Basically in all my classes I might have one or two people who put their video on, that’s it, some classes nobody, and so it’s like talking to a wall”. He believes “Public School Education, like what we do, is about our human interactions and your interactions with your classmates and talking about the work and learning from each other and that is gone.” When allowed back in the classroom, he plans to keep his students away from the screens as much as possible. While he enjoys using online programs such as Jam Board and Pear Deck that allow him to get feedback from his students, he says, “The minute we go back, I don’t want anything to do with a computer.” 

Jordyn Mitchelldyer, a junior at Rex Putnam, has started taking various IB-level courses online this year as she plans to obtain an IB Diploma after completing her senior year. With these classes comes lots of additional and difficult homework with no in-person teacher assistance being offered this year. While she can keep up with the big workload, she does find it challenging to not have as much help as she would in-person. “In-person you can ask them questions and you can get help from them easier.” Especially with the recent Ice Storm, working online has been challenging for her. Because of the storm, she went without power for about eight days and continued to not have internet access for another day after her power came back. As online classes went on with some students still not having access to power, Jordyn had to go to a friend’s house to get work done. While students were not given graded assignments to do during this time, she still felt it was important to find a way to attend these classes because she didn’t want to miss out on anything as her teachers are trying their best to fit all the required IB curriculum into an already shortened school year. “It’s really hard because online with IB tests and stuff, they have to fit so much into it already” so she understood the district’s decision to resume classes during this time. 

But despite all of these obstacles, her biggest struggle this past year has been not being able to see all the people at school. She misses being in the busy hallways with her friends, attending school events, and getting to see her favorite teachers. Jordyn is also a third-year member of her high school’s dance team and misses being able to dance in her home gym. As Covid-19 cases continue to drop in Oregon and vaccines are being disrupted, she hopes to be able to practice indoors soon or be able to go back to school in some sort of hybrid model. With Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI) starting at NCSD high schools this past Wednesday (2/24), it looks like things might be headed that way. Rex Putnam teacher Mr. Alper is not one of the teachers helping with LIPI but says, “I think it’s a positive first step”. He went on to say, “A lot of it comes down to if people would just wear their masks and do all those basic things, I think we could move forward.”