EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene School District 4J is now allowing parents to choose a new option for their students this school year -- learning fully online with teachers and classmates from their current school.
4J's return-to-school plans previously included just two options. The first is a hybrid model in which students learned remotely for the first trimester of the school year before returning to in-person learning. The second is 4J's Online Academy, which has its own curriculum and allows students to learn at their own pace at any time of the day.
In addition to those choices, parents can now choose a same school online option, in which students learn remotely at their current schools, even after those in the hybrid program return.
4J said that the option entered development after parent feedback showed a desire for students to remain connected with their school's community.
Students will video chat with their teachers and classmates on most days.
"We decided to go with the (same school) online option for her class so she could still see her classmates and her teacher. We don't know who that is yet," said Janet Belcher, whose granddaughter will be going to Awbrey Park. "She's in fifth grade. We just wanted to keep it normal for her."
Belcher said she wanted her granddaughter Estelle Cauble to interact with her friends while remaining distanced and healthy. Cauble said she will miss playing with her friends in gym class, but is excited for school overall.
"I was really excited to see my friends, but now I only get to see them on the screen, which is OK," Cauble said.
Some online classrooms will need to be combined, and teachers and classmates may change.
Other parents feel that in-person learning will take a burden off of families and let children socialize more traditionally.
4J parent Courtney Pangborn recently chose the hybrid model for her son.
"We had just switched him to Cal Young and then the pandemic happened, so he really wasn't able to make friends. So then you're just stuck at home and me and my husband both work fulltime still," she said. "I'm glad our son is 12 because I don't know what parents of younger ones are going to do who can't per se stay home for a bit by themselves."
4J is asking families to select their preferred learning option in an online survey, which is due by Aug. 26. This information will help the district make classroom assignments and staffing decisions.