Oregon School for the Deaf (OSD) is a fully accredited K-21 school serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. We hold 2 accreditations: AdvancEd, and CEASD. We serve approximately 120 students and over half of those students stay on campus through the week; the other half commute daily. We offer a range of services, and enjoy sports and clubs in both High School and Middle school. We created a large haunted house 32 years ago, which is our largest fundraiser and this continues on as a special tradition.
Prior to March 2020
Our school had little experience in distance learning; we enjoyed a fully accessible program on our campus. We communicate with families and other stakeholders through social media, and through School Messenger, a digital communication platform that helps immediately alert staff, students and parents to announcements. We have a widely visited website that also lets people know what is happening.
During March-June 2020
The announcement to “go home, stay home, and stay healthy” was sudden and abrupt. We shifted into “Distance Learning for All” after our spring break, having 2 weeks to absorb the information, process, and put plans into place. We quickly collected the essential information from each of our families in regards to students’ access to the internet and access to a device. We deployed over 70 devices to students and several more to teachers and specialists. Our IT person created zoom tutorials and luckily we already had many staff trained in Google Classroom and Screencastify. We ordered more Chromebooks and iPads to ensure everyone had what they needed for Distance Learning.
Communication to families was ongoing throughout the process of this transition. Dorm counselors continued to check-in with students several times a week, playing card games, leading yoga and workout sessions and chatting online to keep spirits up. Teachers taught classes through zoom. Specialists continued to offer support and therapy when possible. Our world was screen-based. Panther News was still aired on YouTube, made up of messages from staff and students, full of positive stories and encouragement.
How the School Rose to the Challenge
This transition was so abrupt, our students did not have a chance to take much with them when they went home. Our IT person (we only have one!) worked very hard to deploy the technology devices, and our clerical team was stellar in mailing out packets of work from teachers to students who could not access the technology, whether due to living in remote areas, or not having the ability to attend to a screen.
Department meetings carried on. Administrators and managers held concise zoom meetings, posted meeting notes and recorded essential information to share with everyone. Bilingual messages in ASL/English were the norm in our emails to ensure clear communication.
Dorm counselors bagged and tagged student belongings, and drove several hours to return belongings, all the while maintaining physical distancing and wearing face masks. High School teachers ordered beautiful yard signs and delivered our senior class these mementos, filming each and every one in their cap and gown.
Where the School is Now
June 12th we aired a beautiful graduation virtual ceremony, a carefully edited video to celebrate our class of 2020. We had it translated into English and Spanish with different links to ensure accessibility for all of our families. June 15th we held our All Staff meeting to honor our employees over zoom, and to recap our unique finish to our school year.
July 15th our Governor will announce plans for either re-entry to our campus, or a continuance of Distance Learning for All. We formed a Safety Planning Committee in late March to formulate a plan for either edict, as well as ideas for a combined practice. We will continue to meet over the summer months. Things like thermometers ordered for all students and staff members are in the works. Health checks will be firmly in place. Special air filtration systems are on order for the Student Health Services area, as well as standing hand sanitizing stations and face masks throughout the campus.
We learned a great deal through this process. Number one was, our IT person is golden. He deserves all the accolades we can muster. Some staff have natural technology skills, while others do not own a cell phone. Through it all, our IT person attended each and every departmental meeting to ascertain who needed assistance to carry out this plan.
We provided high quality programming, partnered well with parents, and made flexible offerings for the very young and those with additional disability. We have plans for dorm use, and cafeteria seating in desks rather than tables and line up areas with floor markings to encourage continued physical distancing as school resumes. We eagerly await the decisions at the state level and continue to hope for the best to begin our 2020-2021 school year, celebrating our 150th anniversary at the same time.
Superintendent: Sharla Jones, Ph.D.