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Springfield Teachers Express Concern About Bringing K-3 Back To the Classroom

Walterville Elementary on Facebook

  Springfield School District plans to start the fall with distance learning for the majority of its classes, but it’s bringing K through 3 students back to the classroom. Some faculty feel their concerns and input have not been considered in this plan. 

Since Lane County’s COVID-19 cases exceed the state’s mandate to return to in-person instruction, schools must resume comprehensive distance learning. However, there’s an exception for K-12 schools in counties that meet the metrics outlined by the Oregon Department of Education.

Springfield is taking this exception and plans to bring k-1 students back to the classroom on September 14th. The following week, 2nd graders would be back and the week after that 3rd graders would return.

Heidi Larson teaches 3rd grade at Walterville Elementary. She said, under the plan, she’s expected to teach online for the first two weeks.

“How do I prepare for both?” Larson asked, “You know, I’m supposed to prepare for online teaching which is very different than in classroom teaching and also, I mean, we’ve been told we’re not even going to get to set up our classrooms that the district’s setting them up.” 

Classrooms will look very different according to the district with six feet between each desk. Kids will be required to stay at their desks all day and wear face coverings. Larson said this is not easy for adults, let alone little kids.

“They want to be together. They’re kids.” Larson said,  “They don’t have spacial awareness. And so, even as a third grade teacher, you still deal with that. I mean they’re more understanding. But you’re still constantly like, ‘stay in your own space’. ‘keep your hands to yourself.’” 

Larson’s colleague, Sarah Bosch, is the kindergarten teacher at Walterville. She wrote a letter to the district urging them to reconsider their plans for in person learning.

She wondered how to maintain social distance in a classroom with children who need a lot of physical help. And the kids will even have to eat lunch at their desks.

“Most of them have difficulty opening their food containers. They’ can’t open a carton of milk. They can’t open their go-gurt.” Bosch said.  “They can’t do these things without assistance. And they need to be supervised.” 

Bosch said another concern is bathroom use. How can a teacher help their student if there’s a potty accident?

“It seems like with social distancing, teachers have so many restrictions on the way we interact physically with students.” Said Bosch.  “We can’t go up to someone and whisper in their ear. We can’t physically comfort kids in the way that we did before.” 

Bosh would like the district to give teachers and staff more time before kids come back to the classroom. More time to plan. More time to figure out the answers to some of their questions.

“I would like them to say, we’re going to start online for the first term. Here’s our plan for asking what your concerns are.” Bosch said. “For setting aside time in your week to collaborate and problem-solve these things.” 

The Springfield School District has told KLCC more than 200 teachers and staff were included in its planning for the fall. And that it paid more than $125,000 in teacher stipends to support the planning process. Also, a district spokesperson said they added an extra week of planning for teachers and have multiple teams working on curriculum for online and in-person teaching.

Springfield opened school registration last week. 

Copyright 2020 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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