As Camas School District buildings stay closed for the rest of the year, administrators and teachers are working hard to push out material to students and figure out what is going to happen next. After experimenting with different programs for the past four weeks, student expectations are becoming more clear. Staff had to educate themselves first, so they can now educate their students through online programs. This is a very unique time and it has taken everyone a while to adjust.
For the past four weeks, students have been unable to meet with their teachers over video-conference due to safety reasons. The meeting platform Zoom was the favored choice in the beginning, but as District leaders did more research, they found more potential for privacy and safety issues.
Camas School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Snell said, “We were ready to go with Zoom and then a lot of that (Zoom bombing) information started coming out. We wanted to make sure that we’re doing everything we could to put students and staff in good situations.”
Instead, District leaders believe meeting through Google might be the best option.
“There isn’t a perfect option at this point, and we are going to continue to explore our options,” said Snell.
If students do not feel comfortable meeting with their teachers over a video conference platform, then they may opt-out. According to Snell, students who opt-out will have similar expectations but will receive pre-recorded lessons or engage differently with their teachers.
“It could be that kids are going to get some phone calls, or email might be a way that they check in,” said Snell.
During this time away from school, CHS administrators highly encourage students to check Google Classroom and their Gmail accounts multiple times a day.
“The schools are trying to be good and consistent with communicating information. Paying attention and spending the time to skim through emails to see if there’s something relevant for parents and students” will be helpful for families, according to Snell. He also welcomes questions: “There are so many different things to think about, so when people ask questions it helps us.” He wants students and their families to be well informed and to reach out if they have any questions.
Since teachers have started pushing out online work, students have expressed their opinions on the schedule, the workload, and what is required of them. Senior and ASB PresidentAudrey Tehrani said, “For me, I have felt extremely supported and cared for during this time by not only my friends and family but from Camas High School as a whole. The teachers, counselors and administrators have been extremely supportive and understanding throughout all of this, which has made the whole situation so much easier overall.”
Although some students are enjoying online school, others are not. Junior Noah Frazier said, “I do not really enjoy the Zoom meetings personally. The quality of the video and audio is not very good in my opinion, and I think that teachers should just have students email them questions and use Google Classroom.”
Other students do not have an opinion on the new platform but believe it is important to keep up with schoolwork during this time. Junior Jacob Gray said, “I mean since the rest of the world is doing Zoom and online learning then I think we should do it too.”
The sudden end to the school year surprised students of all grades, but it is hitting the seniors especially hard. They still have to finish out their education to graduate high school knowing they will not step foot inside the hallways of CHS as students again. Unfortunately for seniors, their year will have to end over a screen with a virtual graduation, but there is hope that everyone will be able to get together for a normal ceremony in mid-summer or fall.
Last week, the District held a “Be the (Porch) Light” event that encouraged residents to turn their lights on for seniors, and the lights at Doc Harris lit up the night sky, too.
Now one major senior focus is finishing and presenting a senior project a graduation requirement for all students at Camas High School. CHS administrators are changing regulations to allow students to continue working on their projects from home.
Principal Mr. Tom Morris said, “We’ve heard from more kids that want to continue with their project and want to do something to finish than we have the other way around. “ Associate Principal Tim Fox is working closely with seniors and already announced the hour requirements are cut down to fifteen.
Tehrani appreciates the flexibility administrators are showing. “Obviously it’s not how we expected senior year to end, but I’ve been trying to make the best out of the situation, and I think that seniors are still going to get the experiences they deserve and hope for!”
Several CHS seniors have contributed op-eds to The Camasonian that reflect a similar, positive outlook. Read their stories here.
Although the grading system for all students the past four weeks has been unclear, Morris encourages students to engage in learning. He said, “When we looked at that remote learning schedule, teachers are asked to do 30-45 minutes of work per day. I’m encouraging students to create a schedule where you go through and do that. Typically you’re at school six hours of class with lunch and travel time it’s more. So, instead of ten hours a day, we’re asking you to do three to four.”
Students will be able to choose how they are graded for the rest of the school year. Snell said, “Governor Inslee didn’t get into the specifics, but he said there couldn’t be any harm to students moving forward. We have to figure out well, what does that mean? What we’ve done is, similar to a lot of districts, there would be a credit incomplete or no credit option and then their grades wouldn’t be impacted if they feel like they couldn’t engage in the learning. The other option is to continue with grades. Doing the work the best they can and asking teachers to grade them.”
The option that students choose is completely up to them and their families, but they will let their teachers know by a target date of June 1st. This decision is especially important for future college athletes.
Snell said, “…you want to do the grade option; in the past, the NCAA took that (credit incomplete or no credit option) as a D, that’s the lowest grade that would pass the class. We’re trying to pay attention to what colleges are doing so that we set kids up to be successful.” The NCAA has announced new changes around how it will accept grades given the pandemic.
Throughout the remainder of the school year, the District will also continue to provide essentials for those in need. These services include child care, food pick-up, and access to free Wifi.
Snell said, “We have served about 40 students with childcare, and it’s gone really well. We have a food pantry so that people can pick up any supplies they need. For lunches and breakfasts, we have revised over the last month different ways of doing it. We have pickup locations at schools and drop-off locations that run bus routes. We found places in the community that seem to work well for people. We’ve learned a lot about some of those services for the last four weeks.”
The funding for these resources is designed to last for the school year, but some community members may need these services past the last day of school on June 19th. No one knows what the state will be able to provide during the summer months, but Snell said sometimes grants are provided.
Meantime, District leaders are continuing to search for a new principal during this time away from school. The process for hiring a principal is not ideal, but the search has not halted. Despite the setback of not being able to meet face to face, there are ways to work around it. Snell said, “The one thing that’s different is that the central office staff will go out and meet with the school staff. We’ve done that with students, too, and it’s a little hard to do that now. We’re not sure what it’s going to look like, but we are getting applicants, and we’re looking forward to naming a new principal by the end of the school year.”
Although times are chaotic right now, the CHS Admin Team is preparing to start school on time next year. There is no guarantee, but they want to make sure that they are ready for whatever circumstance may happen. Morris said, “ We’ll see where we are come summer-time, and there could be adjustments there moving forward as a school. It’s something we need to put on our radar.”
Snell also added, “The governor hasn’t said everything will be fine in September. He’s mentioned several times it could extend into September, and I just want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare for it.” Ultimately, Snell cannot decide when school buildings reopen because it is up to state leaders like Governor Inslee and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
Snell is trying to be positive during this stressful time and said, “My hope is that we’ll be back because we miss students. I think we all know that there’s a different kind of learning that can happen when we’re in the same space. We hope we come back in September.”