Local schools continue to serve the needs of students in the community—providing distance learning/education, meals, and more—in spite of recent school closures due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Local schools continue to serve the needs of students in the community—providing distance learning/education, meals, and more—in spite of recent school closures due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Castle Rock Elementary School superintendent/principal Autumn Funk said that Castle Rock teachers will be personally calling their students every Monday to stay in touch with the students and their parents, to provide information, and to answer any questions parents and students might have. The Castle Rock speech teacher will be calling students on Tuesdays; and the resource teacher will be calling students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) on Fridays. Funk said, “All parents can expect at least one phone call a week.” She asks that parents try to answer these calls, explaining that they will likely be made with phone numbers parents may not recognize.

Funk assured that the Castle Rock teachers are working to develop distance learning plans for every student. She said, “We are using a combination of teacher videos, virtual meetings, individualized creative lessons through Khan Academy, SumDog online adaptive learning games, Prodigy math curriculum, and other assignments.” Funk also said that all Castle Rock students have access to a school Chromebook laptop, workbooks, and learning logs.

Every Castle Rock teacher, from Preschool through 8th grade, is using ClassDojo to communicate with the students and their parents, and to oversee students’ schoolwork. ClassDojo is a user-friendly online communication platform for school classrooms, students, teachers, and parents to stay in communication, and to manage homework. Funk said that it’s imperative that each Castle Rock family join ClassDojo; because ClassDojo is where Castle Rock students and their parents will be able to find all of their classroom assignments and other school-related information. She said they will be uploading and posting learning videos, assignments and online meetings that students will be able to access on ClassDojo.com via WiFi or smart phones. And, she said they are compiling a list of different ways students will be able to access the internet during this time. Funk promised, “If you have any trouble signing up (for ClassDojo), we will walk you through the process.”

Castle Rock School’s transportation department and nutrition team are working cooperatively to continue delivering free breakfasts and lunches to any child age 0-18 throughout the community served by Castle Rock School, which includes Dunsmuir, Castella, and Lakehead. The free breakfast and lunch meals will be delivered midmorning, Mondays through Fridays, at the regular bus stops for Castle Rock School. Funk advised parents and students to please practice social distancing while waiting at the bus stop.

Additional services available to Castle Rock students are “Art with Ms. Debbie” tutorial videos with Castle Rock art teacher, Debbie Blackwell, and virtual “Hang Outs with Ms. Carly”—for boys and girls who might be missing their regular afternoons with after-school program coordinator, Carly Thunborg.

Dunsmuir Elementary School superintendent/principal Susan Keeler said that DES is also providing distance learning for DES students. She said, “Teachers are preparing a hybrid model of lessons.” Keeler explained that this means that teachers will be providing a combination of both paper/pencil and online activities. She said DES teachers will be using Google Classroom, which is an online virtual classroom tool, to assign lessons.

Keeler said that some DES teachers will also use Zoom, which is an online video communication tool through which students and teachers can have face-to-face online meetings.

Dunsmuir Elementary School has checked out Chromebooks to students who need a device for doing their homework. Keeler said they are also checking out hands-on science kits, robots, and P.E. equipment to students.

DES is distributing daily lunches and snacks twice a week, by way of a parking lot drive-through system. The meals are prepared and distributed by their cafeteria cook. Keeler said that families can pick up meals for Mon./Tues./Wed. on Mondays, and meals for Thurs./Fri. on Thursday. For those students who are not able to come to school to pick up their lunch and lessons.

Keeler said that some DES teachers will also use Zoom, which is an online video communication tool through which students and teachers can have face-to-face online meetings.

Dunsmuir Elementary School has checked out Chromebooks to students who need a device for doing their homework. Keeler said they are also checking out hands-on science kits, robots, and P.E. equipment to students.

DES is distributing daily lunches and snacks twice a week, by way of a parking lot drive-through system. The meals are prepared and distributed by their cafeteria cook. Keeler said that families can pick up meals for Mon./Tues./Wed. on Mondays, and meals for Thurs./Fri. on Thursday. For those students who are not able to come to school to pick up their lunch and lessons, Keeler said they have someone delivering meals and lessons to their homes.

According to Keeler, “The entire DES staff will be having weekly Zoom meetings, in order to continue evaluating how things are going, and what needs are still needing to be met.” Keeler said, “I’m extremely proud of my staff for all the work they have been doing to make this unchartered experience work. They are dedicated to continuing a high quality learning experience for our students. Our families are stepping up to meet the home-schooling challenge as well. We are really demonstrating the true meaning of ‘It takes a village’!”

Keeler said, “We even have a volunteer/school board member, Will Newman, who is continuing to read a book to our 7th and 8th grade students, that he has been reading in class. He uploads the audio file to Google Classroom for students to listen to.”

Another example of “the village” of Dunsmuir coming together to support DES students is the weekend backpack program provided by the Dunsmuir Rotary Club. Rotarian Wendi Grochol confirmed, “Rotary is still doing the weekend meals backpack program for DES kids during this time.” Keeler explained that the way the weekend backpack program works is that families pick up food for the kids on Thursday when they pick up their school lunches. The Rotary-provided weekend backpacks supply weekend meals and snacks for the children.

Another way DES families are staying connected to their school is through the Dunsmuir Elementary School Facebook page, which Keeler said is full of online resources for parents to utilize. She said, on their school FB page, “Families are posting pictures and videos of their kiddos doing things at home such as reading books aloud, cooking, and doing physical activities.”

Dunsmuir High School superintendent/principal Ray Kellar said that on their last day of school (before the campus closure), students all received paperwork with lessons and assignments for two weeks. Then after those first two weeks, arrangements were made for students or their parents to come pick up another two weeks’ worth of assignments.

Kellar described DHS’ efforts to meet the students’ academic needs, saying, “We have implemented staff emails to students, class groups, etc. We are also investigating, and had a practice Zoom session with staff and students, with a fair amount of success. Going forward,” he said, “we intend to provide electronic messaging via email, as well as Zoom connection with students.” Kellar added, “Teachers are beginning to utilize Zoom, and that will be more robust as we move into the near future. Lessons, help sessions, etc. will be available weekly for students and classes.”

According to Kellar, “Staff will connect with students/classes at least once each week, and be available for questions, direction, etc.” Kellar said, “We'll continue this avenue of distance learning until we are able to continue school on site. Not the most desirable way to educate, but we'll make it work. It is a system that has not been in place normally, so there will be many learning curves for staff and students in the next few weeks. The important thing is that students continue to work on assignments and get them turned in so that we can complete the year with full credit given for courses and that staff continue to remain available for support.”

“Our school therapist, and resource teachers,” Kellar assured, “will be reaching out to students to continue support and resource availability as needed.”

Kellar said, “We have been distributing 300 meals per week, including lunch and breakfast to our students. It is a drive-through system, available on Mondays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the school. We will continue this meal program for the duration of the outage.” The DHS meal program is being managed by DHS culinary arts teacher Jeff Capps, who has 30 years experience in the food service industry as a professional chef and former owner of three Siskiyou County restaurants.

The DHS maintenance staff will be working 1-2 days a week at this point, to keep things clean, maintained and serviced as the necessity arises. Kellar said that other staff also come in intermittently to keep up with the various needs of the school, classes, reports, etc. He pointed out, “The process of education doesn't stop, and we need to be patient in navigating how and what this may look like for the next few weeks. It is not a perfect system, but all schools in the country are struggling to keep up to date, making sure all students’ needs are being met and that the learning process continues in some way.”

Elaborating on the importance of effective communication during this time, Kellar stated, “As we move forward, it is important for students and parents to reach out to teachers with questions, and be flexible with expectations, as this is not a simple process and certainly not in our norm!” He explained, “As information comes out from the state and county, we will continue to send letters home, send phone/text messaging as necessary, and post regularly updated information on our school website and Facebook page. We are trying to cover all bases for dissemination of information to our students, parents and community.”