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School's Out, Ore. Teachers Find Ways to Help

It's unclear if Oregon students will return to the classroom this academic year. (shangarey/Adobe Stock)
It's unclear if Oregon students will return to the classroom this academic year. (shangarey/Adobe Stock)
April 6, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- With schools closed, Oregon teachers are finding other ways to support students and their communities.

Claudia McClellan is a Spanish teacher at Westview High School in the Beaverton School District. After classes were suspended, McClellan grew concerned about her students' well-being. She decided to connect everyone online and says what was supposed to be a three-minute Zoom meeting lasted more than an hour.

"They don't want to leave the chat, you know," she relates. "They're like, 'But we have more questions!' In reality, they want to talk with me and they want to see their friends and they want to laugh. I think we forgot for a little bit what was going on around us because we connect to each other."

The Oregon Department of Education says there's a chance students won't return to classrooms this academic year.

In Oregon City, Ogden Middle School social studies teacher Megan Christopher is making sure children are fed. Many students rely on school meals, so the district has set up food pick-up locations around the area, offering lunch and breakfast for the next day.

Christopher says about 50 to 60 families were helped during spring break and the need has exploded since then. She says people in public education are doing a lot behind the scenes for families.

"It's not just the kids that we teach, but it's also their parents and their grandparents and their siblings -- that we really are connected with their families and the community and sometimes people forget that teachers are really on the front lines in that way," she points out.

Stacey Barber, a biology teacher at David Douglas High School in Portland, says she heard about the need for fabric masks and decided to team up with her mom to meet the call.

"So I came over and we looked up some fabric patterns and we tried a couple and she actually showed me how to use a sewing machine -- I've never sewn before in my whole life -- and we started getting going," she states.

Barber says she and her mother have made more than 600 masks, providing them for free to caregivers, nurses, nursing home workers, and anyone else who needs them.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR