In-person Learning at ACA: Some Opportunities Available, Expansion Paused

Madalena Larkins

The Charter News 

5/19/21 

In March of 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced that schools would be required to offer in-person or hybrid options to students. In part due to a lack of staffing, ACA decided against switching classes back to in-person for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, but is offering supplemental activities on campus. 

COVID-19 cases in Clackamas County have been increasing, and as a result ACA will not begin offering any additional in-person activities, but will continue to offer the ones currently available. ACA Director Seanna Bloemer stated in a newsletter on April 27th that “We have successfully been operating in hybrid for over eight weeks without any issues. […] At this time, we will continue with all in person options as scheduled, but will pause on expanding, as recommended, until case rates decline once again.” 

Currently, on-campus opportunities are available to students of all ages. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade have the option of coming to campus on Tuesday afternoons, where they are separated into cohorts of 10, and given math, reading, and science instruction. Julie Swanson, Lead Teacher and Associate Director, said that “Those classes are not standards based. […] These are K-5 kids, we wanted to get them back in the building, we wanted to give them the opportunity to be around their peers. […] The whole focus of Tuesdays is really around enrichment.”

Middle and high school students are assigned to cohorts of around 15 or 20 students, which is still below the maximum allowed under reopening guidelines, according to Swanson. When on campus, middle and high schoolers have the option to do homework and receive support from teachers, as well as participate in elective activities. 

The number of students who come to campus each week has been steadily increasing, says Swanson, with around a 150 individual students visiting over the course of the first week in May. 

The PSAT has also been administered twice, first to a group of 11th graders in January, and then a group of 10th graders in late April. 

Before participating in on campus activities, students are required to watch this safety video, and complete a self screening which includes a temperature check. According to the In-person Letter issued by Bloemer on April 2, “When entering campus your child will be asked if they have completed a self screening prior to arrival and if they are feeling well. Verbal confirmation is all that is needed. Do not send your child to school if they are ill.”

When students arrive on campus, they are required to sign in, either by scanning a QR code or by filling out a sheet and recording their name, the name of the person who dropped them off, and their arrival time. This is for contact tracing purposes should an outbreak occur at ACA.  Students and staff are required to wear facial coverings and maintain social distancing at all times. Frequently touched surfaces and borrowable school supplies are sanitized often.  

Having students back on campus, says Swanson, has been amazing. “I had one parent report to me that her son just comes once a week to one of our upper cohorts, and she’s like ‘just the one time a week of getting him out of his room and getting him on campus has changed his mood so much.’”

Katelynn Reynolds, a sophomore who participates in on campus activities on a regular basis, says that she enjoys being able to socialize with other students, but that maintaining social distancing for the duration of in-person events could be a challenge. Wearing a mask, she added, makes her feel “claustrophobic.” 

Eden Cooper, a freshman, comes to campus on Mondays to receive math instruction and do homework. She felt that “the difficult part about being at school during the pandemic is keeping my mask on for long periods of time. My face gets all sweaty and it gets hard for me to breathe because I have asthma and I even used to get frequent panic attacks while wearing a mask.” Cooper went on to say that she really enjoyed being able to see people on campus again. “I really wanted to hug almost everyone I saw because I was so happy to be back, but then I remembered the six [foot] rule.”

Charity Cooper, a freshman, made similar assertions about mask wearing saying, “I don’t like wearing masks that long, but they do allow you to take a break and get some fresh air any time.” 

Shallon Smith, ACA’s Compliance/Registrar Officer, usually works from home but was on campus in April to assist in administering the PSAT. She said that the most challenging part of coming to campus was remembering her mask. 

All students and staff interviewed said they felt the safety protocols in place for on campus activities were adequate. “I think they’re doing the best they can,” noted 10th grader Grace Mikklesen. 

Sources:

Bloemer, Seanna. “Fwd: Mid-Week Update April 27, 2021.” Received by Madalena Larkins 29 April, 2021. 

Bloemer, Seanna. “In-Person Letter.” 2 April, 2021. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fbMtn7OsQGfWqXJpcOu8uIuSAf9GS6-f6GFMzCPjNng/edit  Accessed 5 May, 2021.

Brown, Kate. “Governor Kate Brown Issues Executive Order Reopening Schools for In-Person Instruction,”  State of Oregon Newsroom, 12 March 2021. https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=54320 Accessed 5 May, 2021.

Cooper, Charity. “Re: Questions About What It’s Like to be on Campus.” Received by Madalena Larkins, 11 May, 2021. 

Cooper, Eden. “Re: Questions About What It’s Like to be on Campus.” Received by Madalena Larkins, 5 May, 2021. 

Mikkelsen, Grace. Personal interview. 27 April 2021. 

Reynolds, Katelynn. Personal interview. 27 April 2021.

“Ready Schools Safe Learners 2020-2021 Guidance.” Oregon.gov, 2 April, 2021. https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Documents/Ready%20Schools%20Safe%20Learners%202020-21%20Guidance.pdf Accessed 13 May, 2021. 

Swanson, Julie. Personal interview. 11 May 2021. 

Smith, Shallon. Personal interview. 27 April 2021.