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Remote Frustrations Cause Community Divide

2020 in Camas has been hectic, to put it mildly. In the past few months, the Camas community has been featured in national headlines, endured various unsettling threats and lockdowns, seen local protests about heated political issues, and now there is more tension than ever thanks to remote learning. Community members, teachers, and students are all overwhelmed, and it seems divisive opinions on whether to return to in-person school have built more barriers between the community and its educators. Still, teachers continue to reach across the divide to help their students succeed.

Seanna Pitassi, a former CHS teacher and the current dean of students, said, “I see those challenges every day, and it’s so hard not to see people in person and build those relationships.”

Pitassi also mentions that while none have come to her demanding that schools be opened, she understands that it is on the mind of nearly every parent. She sympathizes with them, understanding that online school is not the best option for everyone, but it is currently the only option available to staff and students. She emphasizes that students are at the focus of every conversation about whether schools are ready for hybrid learning or not.

“We have some plans in the works that maybe aren’t ready to be discussed yet, but the community should see some things in the next couple weeks [about] some ways we’re hoping to reach out to students that are struggling,” she said.

In recent weeks, the school board has come out and announced that a hybrid plan would not even be considered until COVID-19 cases in the county have drastically decreased.

Courtesy of Joe Farland.

Despite this announcement, various community events have taken place, including a recent Culp for governor campaign rally hosted at Camas Meadows. Some parents even held a car rally to open schools for in-person learning.

Many teachers are worried about keeping their families safe or are part of the at-risk demographic themselves. Parents in the community are understandably frustrated, but it is important to keep in mind that the teachers are not the sole deciders of whether or not schools reopen.

Lori Leighton, a math teacher at Camas High School, talked about her experiences with parents.

“I’ve experienced a few parents who—I don’t know them—[but] I can only assume that they were frustrated, and wanted to go back [to in-person learning],” she said.

Leighton also mentioned how she has worked with various struggling students.

Joseph Farland, an English teacher at CHS, also expressed his concern surrounding the frustration that many community members feel.

Farland said, “I completely understand how this has been challenging for parents. But I find the select community comments referring to lazy teachers who just want to sit at home, or the taxpayers who demand their money back because teachers aren’t working, to be completely ignorant and out of touch with reality.”

He added, “I get it that nearly all of us are frustrated, though. I mean, we’re living through a pandemic.”

Although distance learning has its awkward pauses of silence and internet connectivity issues, it is worth noting that it has its share of positive aspects as well.

Courtesy of Rose Hinchliff.

CHS science teacher Katelyn Levenick points out that the students that are not able to attend virtual classes “don’t have to miss out on the learning” that would typically be covered during class.

Most teachers are able to record their lessons and post them to Google Classroom, so that they are always available for students to revisit.

It can be difficult to transition from hands-on learning, but teachers have been making themselves more accessible than ever. Students are encouraged to reach out to their teachers by attending conference periods on Mondays and Thursdays, and to engage by asking questions during class Zoom sessions.

While no one knows when the “new normal” the pandemic has brought will go back to something more like the “old normal”, the best everyone in the community can do is roll with the punches and stay positive, knowing everyone is doing their best.

Camasonian journalists Jacob Warta and Danny Macias contributed to this article.

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