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Families in Oregon call for in-person school option

Shalyse Olson, a parent, said distance learning isn’t working. She wants state leaders to allow families and teachers to pursue in-person learning if they choose.
Credit: Shalyse Olson
Shalyse Olson helping her kids with online learning

SALEM, Ore. — Parents across Oregon are voicing their frustration over distance learning. One of them is Shalyse Olson. She is mom to four kids who attend school in the Salem-Keizer School District. Her kids are in 10th grade, seventh grade, second grade and kindergarten.

Like kids across the state, all of them are learning online. She said distance learning just isn’t working for her kids and many others.

“Teachers are doing a great job trying to make it sound great and fun and positive, but the kids show it, and they are the ones who voice their frustrations and tears,” said Olson.

She said between all the technical difficulties and the isolating nature of online learning, her kids are losing out.

“I’m gonna start crying so I apologize. It just makes you feel sad,” Olson said.

She said her kids are fortunate. They have all the help they need at home. But she’s worried about other kids who may not have that kind of support.

Credit: Shalyse Olson
Shalyse Olson helping her kids with online learning

“You see it going on in the classes as you are sitting in your home and can do nothing about it,” said Olson. 

She said she’s seen kids who encounter technology problems, the teacher asks if any parents are home, but the student’s parents are both working.

Olson decided to start a petition on Change.org. So far, it has more than 3,000 signatures. All of the people who signed are advocating for an in-person learning option.

“We’re not forcing everybody to go back to school. That is absolutely not what we would want to do,” Olson said. “We know there are people at risk and there are certain teachers that are not ready, and students and families who are not in a situation to go back yet.”

But she said families and teachers who do feel comfortable with in-person learning should have a choice.

“Why shouldn’t our kids and teachers have a chance to go to school if they feel ready?” Olson asked.

Meantime, on Thursday, parents and kids in Clackamas County headed up a similar effort with an afternoon rally.

RELATED: Clackamas County parents rally to get kids back in school

Credit: KGW
Rally in Clackamas County advocating for an in-person learning option

Jennifer Dale was one of the organizers. She has a child with special needs and says online education has been almost impossible.

"If this gets to be a prolonged stay-at-home and a prolonged out of the classroom, I'm afraid this is going to be a permanent loss,” said Dale.

Quinn, a young child attending the rally in Clackamas County, said he's not enjoying distance learning.

"They’re not teaching you anything. They’re just teaching you how to use the tech. Fourteen days of that and I didn’t learn anything," said Quinn.

Back in Salem, Olson said she recognizes there is some risk going back to in-person learning, but said there’s a risk either way.

“The risk of them staying home is much greater, socially, emotionally, intellectually, mentally,” said Olson. “We are ready. We want to go. We have teachers who want to go."

Olson is planning a rally of her own. It’s scheduled for Monday from 4-6 p.m. in Salem on the steps of the state Capitol.

KGW reached out to the Oregon Department of Education to see if the rallies and petitions could change anything. A spokesperson for the ODE said there is only one way for in-person school to resume.

“Only by following the guidelines can we open our schools to in-person instruction and keep them open,” Marc Siegel, communications director for ODE, said in an email.

KGW checked in with a few of the larger districts get an update on distance learning plans. The superintendent of the Beaverton School District, this week, decided to extend online learning through Feb. 8 for fourth-12th grade students. They’re considering the same for pre-K through third graders, though haven’t made a decision yet.

Portland Public Schools plans to give parents an update by Oct. 10. As of right now, distance learning is in place until Nov. 5.

As for Salem-Keizer Schools, a district spokesperson said they are monitoring the metrics and will make a decision in the coming weeks.

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