Serving the Communities & Surrounding Areas of Brownsville, Halsey, Shedd & Peoria, Oregon.

Letter to the Community from Superintendent Gardner – July 30, 2020

July 30, 2020  /  Superintendent

Central Linn Parents and Community,

I would first like to acknowledge the stress that our families are feeling right now. Raising children is hard in normal times, doing so in the face of a pandemic that has impacted the economy, our daily lives, our relationships, our safety, our ability to look forward to anything, and any sense of normalcy that we want and that our children need; this is why school is so important right now. School gives our children something concrete to hold onto when few things are certain.

By now, I am sure you have heard the Governor’s message about linking school openings to the community spread of the Covid-19 virus. Many school districts have responded by making announcements about starting the year in distance learning, we are waiting a few more weeks to make our decision. The start of school is 40 days out. Although this is my first pandemic, I have learned in the last five months that nothing stays the same for 40 days. Over reacting to the latest political announcement will lead to short sighted decisions and no long term strategy. I also acknowledge that you want to know and need to plan.

In short, the Governor’s matrix shows that opening schools is now linked to the amount of community spread of Covid-19 by county. Your behavior and diligence in keeping social distance and wearing a mask will directly impact the opening of schools. In order for grades K-3 to come to school, community spread must be less than 30 cases per 100,000 population per week. To open for grades 4-12 cases must be less than 10 cases per 100,000 population per week. Linn County is currently at 19.3 cases per 100,000 population per week. As of today, July 30th, we could open K-3 but not 4-12. My hope is that we can drive this number down further over the next 2-3 weeks and open school for all kids.

We are not just planning for the start of school, we are building a framework for delivering education for the duration of the 20-21 school year. In order for us to do that, and serve your needs as a family, we need to know exactly what you want and what you are capable of contributing in our partnership to make that educational experience the best that it can be for your child under very difficult circumstances. With that in mind, we are continuing on-line registration where you will be asked to choose between an in-person or distance learning model. Your response allows us to build the stable in-person cohorts necessary for in-person success regardless of when that happens. If we are forced to start in distance learning, we want to be able to transition into in-person as soon as possible. We cannot do that transition on the fly if we don’t know what your preference is now. The cohorts must be built now, regardless of when the plan is executed. In order for this to work, if you want your child in the building, we need you to register before the August 18th deadline. If you register after August 18th, your child will be enrolled in the distance learning option for the 20-21 school year. There may be a few exceptions, but don’t rely on it.

Many of you have reached out wanting to know what in-person and distance learning is going to look like; Fair enough! Factual information is always good in making decisions. Our goal is by the end of next week (August 7th) we will publish a document that will give you information about in-person and distance learning options. This information will include an overview of what it will look like at each grade level, curriculum used, equipment provided by the district, instructional delivery methods, additional supports provided by the district and the process for transitioning between in-person and distance learning, if that transition is necessary or desired.

The district cannot control emergency situations or the continual modification of state mandates. It is our goal that any transition to or from in-person instruction be reviewed on a predictable timeline to provide parents, kids and the school with as much stability as possible. In other words, we will review the data every 5-6 weeks and make decisions (with a transition period whenever possible) for the next 5-6 weeks. More information on this review timeline will be forthcoming.

To those parents who have the luxury of considering your own home school, we would like to partner with you in our distance learning option to provide you with the resources and flexibility to meet your child’s needs. I would also like to challenge you to consider the needs of your community; those families that do not have the resources you enjoy. I am speaking to not only our local community but to the entire state when I say, don’t make the assumption that you can ‘sit this one out’ and return to your local school when things get back to ‘normal.’ If a significant number of families choose to not partner with their local schools, local schools will lose state funding. If schools survive (some won’t) their capacity will be severely eroded and it may take years for them to build back; if they ever do. Your choices will impact the kids who can least afford the negative impact. It may also impact your child’s ability to keep up with peers without curriculum and instruction tied to standards. Please consider partnering with your local school and taking advantage of what they have to offer…. There is no need to do this alone.

I know these are strange and stressful times. Let’s try to remember that everyone is in this together. Everyone is in need of a little grace and each one of us has the ability to grant that. I encourage you to also extend that grace to yourself. We all come up short sometimes, a little grace will allow us to learn and continue on doing the best that we can in a difficult time. We need community now more than ever.

Brian Gardner