EUGENE, Ore. -- Nearly two months have passed since Gov. Kate Brown ordered schools in Oregon to reopen for hybrid learning. Thousands of students are now back in classrooms across the state.
In the Bethel School District, about 70% of families have opted for hybrid learning, while the remaining students continue with online school.
Willamette High School counselor Clair Smith said she was thrilled when some high school students came back to class in early April.
“I really miss my students,” Smith said. “Making sure my students are on track to graduate, having an opportunity to have them here earning those credits is really, really important.”
Makenzie Brundage, a senior at Willamette, was heavily involved in high school activities before the pandemic and was thrilled when she learned she could go back to school.
“I was really excited. It felt like life was going to be great again - which honestly, it has been really good,” Brundage said.
Brundage also has Type 1 diabetes and said she appreciates the school’s safety measures – including masks, social distancing, deep cleanings and small class sizes.
“It feels really safe to me, which was an important thing for me when I was deciding if I would comeback,” Brundage said.
However, hybrid learning means students can’t ditch the laptop or virtual classroom entirely.
Alyssa Dodds, an assistant principal at Willamette, explained that students are split into two separate cohorts, known as AA and BB.
One group is in class on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest are in class Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday is reserved for deep cleanings of the campus.
“You're here on campus for first and second period. And then we have some grab-and-go lunch options. And they actually head home in the afternoons to do their online classes,” Dodds said.
Brundage said the hybrid model is a good start, but she wishes she could be in school more.
“I wanted to spend so much more time in the school, and I can't really be there as much as I want,” Brundage said.
Sophomore Shawn Butler is among the 30% of students still taking classes solely online. Butler’s mother runs a day care from their home and the risk is too high. The day care would have to shut down if Shawn was exposed to a positive case at school.
“I kind of like online, but at the same time, I'm wanting to get back in the classroom for sure,” Butler said.
Smith says it can be a tough decision for parents to decide which learning model is best for them, but she encourages having a conversation with school leaders.
“I know that parents have questions. They can feel free to call and ask anything and we'll do our very best to answer,” Smith said.
[EDITOR NOTE: This story was sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education.]