Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Vancouver Public Schools officials say remote learning will be better in fall

By , Columbian Education Reporter

Clark County students are unlikely to see the inside of a classroom for some time as districts prepare their remote learning plans for the start of the school year.

Those in Vancouver Public Schools got a clearer picture of what “Digital Learning 2.0” could look like — and why district officials say it will be better.

Officials in the 23,500-student school district offered a lengthy report on how schools will operate in the fall, covering technology access, lesson planning and ways families can connect with their teachers.

Among the key takeaways: fewer apps to navigate, more communication between teachers and families, and a return of grade keeping and attendance.

“We’re creating something really new here in education and are creating along as we learn,” said Tamara Shoup, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning.

Vancouver Public Schools joined seven other Clark County districts last week in recommending a full remote start to the school year as the coronavirus pandemic continues. School buildings have been closed since March 13.

The recommendation tracks with data released by the district last week suggesting many families in the school district are concerned about an in-person return to the school year. According to a survey, 60 percent of families said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with a full, in-person return to campus; 45 percent said they’d be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with a hybrid model that brings students back to school several days a week.

Still, several people at Tuesday’s meeting expressed their dismay at the likelihood of starting the school year online. Kim Pehrson Peralta, a parent in the district, questioned the integrity of the survey data and urged the district against giving it too much weight as it prepares to issue a decision.

“I’m concerned we’re acting out of fear,” she said.

Michael Gravel, another parent, asked district officials what data they were using to determine when it will be safe to return to school, and said it’s damaging for students to be off campus.

“We really need to get these kids back into school as quickly as possible, but recognizing this is a new normal and there will be infections that occur,” he said.

Washington has not announced statewide data districts can use to decide whether reopening is safe. Oregon put requirements in place last week that forced many of the state’s largest districts to announce they’d remain closed to in-person instruction until November. In Washington, the decision still fully falls to area district officials.

As of Tuesday, Clark County had 1,946 total cases of the novel coronavirus.

Districts’ reopening plans must be adopted at least two weeks prior to the start of school. The Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors is expected to vote on the learning plan Aug. 11.