The Lincoln County School District (LCSD) on Friday, November 13, announced they would continue with the hybrid reopening of LCSD that allowed students 4-12 grade back in the classroom for two days per week, with three days online, based upon the state metrics and Governor’s order. On Monday, November 16, Superintendent Karen Gray announced that the district would place their own “freeze” on returning to hybrid in person instruction for grades 4-12 until January 28, 2021.
It left many parents in Lincoln County shocked, confused and angry. Parents have been reaching out to find answer to why the decision was made since the district hasn’t provided any facts and figures to substantiate the change. Lincoln County continues to meet and exceed the metrics for school to reopen to the hybrid. So far the K-3 hybrid in Lincoln County has gone very smoothly, safely and the district is keeping student in those grades at school.
In looking into the matter, PNWNE learned that there was a online zoom meeting held Friday, November 13 between Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Patterson with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and at least two Lincoln County parents, Dr. Gavin Shumate (OBGYN) and Amy Shumate, owner of ABC Daycare and Preschool.
PNWNE reached out to Ms. Patterson with the ODE for information about that meeting and so far the only reply was that the zoom meeting was not recorded. According to the Shumate’s public post on their Facebook page, regarding the zoom meeting they said Ms. Patterson “plans to talk with the district this weekend.”
On Monday, November 16, the LCSD suddenly reversed their decision on going forward with the 4-12 grade hybrid with little explanation and no fact to support the change. In a statement sent to parents Monday Superintendent Gray stated "We don’t feel it makes sense to add back to campus any more students during a freeze, but we also don’t think it is right to make K-3 students have to go back to Comprehensive Distance Learning or CDL. The Governor implemented a Freeze and that is exactly what we are doing. Barring any forthcoming information, this is our plan until January 28, 2021 (about 8 weeks). This will get us through the holidays and 2-4 weeks after the holidays in case of any quarantines."
Kim Parrish, an organizer of a parent movement that is currently questioning the District's freeze, said "I have to wonder about the Shumates motives. ABC preschool has had K-5 students in person since September. It is only natural to wonder if their involvement wanting to change the direction of Lincoln County Schools has to do with a loss of revenue they will see as their students return to public school."
Additionally, Parrish notes that no matter what, it is becoming clear that a small group of vocal parents pushed hard against the district and the ODE to stop the in person hybrid schedule continuing to roll out for 4-12th grade. Parrish seeks to band parents together who support a return to in person instruction as per the state guidelines to make their voices heard and encourages parents to reach out with their opinions to Superintendent Karen Gray and the school board.
Dr. Shumate said "I am not against the hybrid model if that works for some students, then they should do it but Edmentum should not be the only other choice for those that don't want their children in school. I sent letters to Principal Moore, Dr. Barrett, Dr. Gray, Susan Van Liew, the school board, and Colt Gill and then was contacted by ODE for a meeting. In that meeting I expressed my concerns as a parent about sending my kids back to school and I don't feel that Edmentum is a sufficient option." Shumate stated he just wants a better CDL option. He also adamantly denied that ABC preschool would have any financial gain.
During the District's November 10th School Board meeting the board was urged by several to continue with the CDL plan for middle and high school students. There was concern expressed about holiday get togethers, and many felt that waiting till after the first of the year would be a safer plan. It was also requested that students be allowed to continue with CDL learning even if a hybrid model was allowed. Giving parents a choice of having their kids in school.
Another parent of a High School Student Sharon Biddinger said she too is disheartened in the learning models available for students. "It was very hard to disappoint my son and tell him that he was not going back to school after all. He was really looking forward to getting back to the classroom." Biddinger stated that her son has been part of the Edmentum program and it is not working well for him. "Technical issues with Edmentum occur frequently and not only interrupt my son's routine with staying on task, but also my ability to help him." Biddinger added "several times I have had to adjust my work schedule to try and support him. This one size fits all approach is not working for our kids."
PNWNE reached out to Superintendent Gray and the LCSD School board for their response. School Board member Jenny Demaris referred back to Superintendent Gray and administration saying "We as a school board don't make these decisions they are made on an administrative level and any changes have to come from the Superintendent." At the time of this post we have not yet heard back from the school district. We will have updates from the school district as soon as they are available.
By Kiera Morgan and Leslie Linn-Brown KSHL/WAVE radio