Submitted by Rene Carroll
The fleet of big yellow Washougal School District buses were on their regular routes on April 13 and 14 for the first time in weeks. However, students were not waiting to be picked up, but to receive delivery of their classroom iPads.
“This was a major step forward in implementing distance learning during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order which closed schools March 16,” said Les Brown, WSD Communications and Technology Director. “The process had many steps and took many hours to implement.”
The first step was for classroom teachers to identify and develop curriculum using high-quality, online educational materials. Then each student device was updated with the necessary programs and pre-loaded applications.
More than 1,300 iPads spread among four schools were removed from more than 70 classroom carts, cataloged, and then bagged. This work was done by approximately 25 classified employees, the entire IT staff, and a dozen or more transportation staff, with support from maintenance, warehouse and custodians. “Each student received ‘their’ district iPad and some of the bags included a personal note of encouragement from their teacher,” Brown said.
Lastly, each student bag was moved to their regular bus route for delivery. Students who are listed as walking to school had their bags available to pick up at their school during several windows during the week. Transportation staff reached out to families who are homeless to make arrangements for delivering those iPads, and are in the process of following up with any students who did not get their iPad in the first wave of deliveries.
WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton rode along on a bus route and then swung by Gause Elementary to help distribute bags. “It felt so good to see the students and check in with families,” Templeton said. “This is all so very new to everyone as we figure out each step in how to effectively offer distance learning.” She was encouraged with how positive, upbeat, and supportive people were.
“Our teachers are working hard each day to provide quality education and connect with students,” said Templeton. “They are continuing their work to know, nurture and challenge their students to rise. It just looks quite different right now.”
Facebook comments from Washougal parents said the process, for the most part, was quick and easy. Parents also shared that students looked forward to having their devices for schoolwork. It was also fun for the children to see their bus drivers after weeks away.
Asher Connors, a 4th grader from Columbia River Gorge Elementary, said he was happy to receive his iPad and said the subject he missed most was science.
This process will continue through the rest of the school year with regular delivery of instructional materials, curriculum, and opportunities for students to turn in schoolwork for teacher grading.