SCHOOLWATCH: Online options filling up, new tech tackles COVID-19 and more

About 130 students are on the waitlist, hoping for a slot in 4J's online options.

Posted: Sep 2, 2021 7:52 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- In just a few days, schools will be back in session in Lane County. 

Eugene School District 4J had their school board meeting on Wednesday night, and officials said there are about 960 students enrolled in the two online learning options the district is offering. That leaves about 130 students on the waiting list, they said. 

Board members said the priority right now is making sure they have enough staff to accommodate all of these students. 

One Eugene mom, Whitney Wilmarth, is sending her children back to school in the 4J district. She said she did consider the online learning option for her children, but she ultimately decided the best thing to do for her kids was send them back to the classroom. 

RELATED: 4J parents must request distance learning for students by Aug. 23

"My thing was if they go back to school and then it closes and again -- how much of an impact is that going to have on them because they've been looking forward to it so much. So that's where my hesitation was," said Wilmarth. 

Wilmarth went on to say she is excited for her kids to get back to in-person learning, and her kids are excited to have a teacher again. 

And with the move to in-person learning, there might be some worry from parents about how classrooms are being cleaned. 

With this in mind, Springfield Public Schools is set to reopen this fall with a new disinfection technology. They're the first district in Oregon to adopt hospital grade UVC disinfection technology with the Company R-Zero.

The technology known as the Arc works to eliminate 99.9% of surface and air pathogens from classrooms and buildings. 

It only takes about seven minutes for the Arc to clean an area like a classroom, ensuring students and staff will return to a safe learning environment the next day. 

Operations Officer Brett Yancey said he is thrilled the district can use the Arc this year. 

"When we found it and we had done the research, we had figured out quickly this was going to meet the needs that we have in our district and it's meeting the needs right now in hospitals and other school districts. And so it really was a good match for us," said Yancey.

Yancey also said this technology will be used by the district beyond the pandemic, as it kills all germs. 

But even with these new technologies, there might still be some anxiety from parents about sending their kids back. 

Diane Palmer, a Eugene grandparent, helps take care of her grandchildren frequently. She told KEZI 9 News while online learning was hard, it helped her know her grandkids were safe. And while she and their parents talk to them about any concerns they may have about going back to school, she said with most of her grandkids all going to different schools, this gives her a lot of anxiety about possible COVID-19 infection. 

"That's a lot of exposure to a lot of staff, of families, even if it was one school it would sort of be a smaller group, and children are coming in from different schools to the middle schools, so it's just more of a worry," said Palmer. 

Despite these anxieties, Palmer said she is confident her grandkids are ready to go back. 

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