Board hears enrollment, scores down

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Parents gathered outside the Santiam Travel Station for the school board meeting Feb. 11 to hold a “peaceful protest” intended to make sure the board understands their disappointment that school reopening has been pushed back another three weeks, according to Becky West, one of the participants.
At last month’s board meeting, the board decided to begin reopening schools mid-February, but later changed the date to March 8.
“Although we are frustrated with the decision of when to go back to school, we are more frustrated with the lack of communication between the board and parents,” West explained in a public comment letter.
“Our purpose here tonight is to ask for better communication and transparency from the board. As parents we want to be included in our children’s education. We have been vocal because we are invested in our children and their education. We want to have a voice and that voice be heard.”
Her husband, Matt West, noted that the board at last month’s meeting made it clear, with the possible exception of one member, that they were eager to get the students back in school. Later, the decision was made by Supt. Bo Yates to push the date back, and West said the reasons given for such a decision didn’t align with recommendations from the state and health officials.
But parents’ main concern was that they want better communication and transparency from the district, he said.
“We are simply trying to have somewhat of a united voice with parents. We’re frustrated, and in the future we would like to have more of a say in what happens with our kids,” Matt said.

During a discussion in the board meeting about curriculum and assessment updates, it came as no surprise to the board that enrollment and attendance totals dropped this past school year, due to COVID, in comparison over the past three years.
The percentage of students reading at or above the national 50th percentile is 45.6% (second through fifth grades) and 32.3% (sixth through eighth grades). The number of students needing “urgent intervention” as assessed this past winter compared to the previous winter has increased from 13.8% to 22.5% (second through fifth) and from 14.8% to 19% (sixth through eighth).
The percentage of students for math at or above the national 50th percentile is 42.5% (second through fifth) and 40.3% (sixth through eighth). The number of students needing “urgent intervention” as assessed this past winter compared to the previous winter has increased from 9.3% to 18.6% (second through fifth) and from 12.1% to 19.1% (sixth through eighth).
Board members also discussed current reports on grades and, more specifically, how grades will show up on transcripts for the students who haven’t been showing up to their online classes.
“So what is going to be different in a few weeks when we’re back in a classroom for those kids that weren’t showing up for Zoom?” asked Tom Oliver, chairperson. “They weren’t logging in to Canvas; do we think they’re going to show up and be in the hallways?”
Yates said that’s his hope, noting that the district has been literally knocking on doors to try to find the kids and get them in school.
“We’re hoping that the social aspect of being there will provide an incentive for them,” he said.
An obstacle arises when a student shows up but they’ve missed an entire year, and Yates said that student will probably have to work on curriculum from the grade missed, but it’s a problem the board will have to tackle as it arises.
Yates also said administrators are looking at the possibility of holding two graduations this year, so students who are on track can graduate, while the others who need six more weeks of instruction can complete their work and then graduate.
It’s been a frustrating year, he later noted.
Now as the district is starting to get some of their students back, they’ve got parents from both sides telling them they need to do “this” or “that,” he said.
“What we need to do is all work together, because this is a long road that we’re going to be on,” Yates said.
Board members also heard an update from Athletic Director Kraig Hoene on recent Oregon School Activities Association and state government moves to open up athletic competition.
The OSAA announced two weeks ago that student athletes could come back indoors for non-contact activities, he said, but with Linn County being in “extreme risk” category, Lebanon could only have had six kids in the gym at a time, spaced at 25 feet.
Now that Linn falls in the “high risk” category, as of Feb. 9, up to 50 people can be in the gym at one time, but competitions with other schools is still limited based on other county categories (see page 16).
The school is waiting to hear updated guidelines from Oregon Health Authority and the state, “but at least it looks like Lebanon Friday night football is back on the table,” Hoene said.
OSAA has condensed the football season, for which practices started Feb. 8, and other regular fall sports – cross country and soccer – have been given the “go ahead.” For indoor volleyball, Hoene said they’re still waiting on more guidelines to be presented.
“Today it was 35 degrees out and we had about 75 football kids running around, and one kid even had his winter coat with the fur on his collar, running around, and we had about 20 cross country kids running around,” Hoene said. “That’s how bad the kids want to get back out there.”
Spring sports will be begin in April, and winter sports will begin in May, according to the OSAA plan.
“Right now Oregon’s one of the four states in the country that hasn’t done any competitions so far,” Hoene noted.
He said another question is how it will work if “extreme risk” counties come to Linn, a “high risk” county, for competitions.
In other business, the school board:
♦ Approved a Findings of Fact and approved an exemption from competitive bidding requirements specifically for the Lebanon High School Seismic Rehabilitation Project.
The district’s alternate contracting method, a construction manager/general contractor selection process, is expected to result in substantial cost savings, and still encourage competition that is unlikely to encourage favoritism.
“We have some experience in this contracting vehicle,” said Oliver. “The advice is sound having the contractor involved during the design process.”
♦ Approved a request to apply for a school number from the state for Lebanon Online, a “school within a school,” wherein some 400 kids in K-8 and 14 teachers opted to stay online, said Tammy Schilling, board member.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to be able to track it and really see what it’s doing,” Oliver said.
If it’s successful, it would be important for interested parents and students to see that success, he said.
Some people have determined that online school works for them, Schilling noted.
Board member Mike Martin said the board will need to review the online school as an option if the success rate and enrollment numbers don’t support its viability.
Yates pointed out there are already a lot of home school students in Lebanon, but there might be some who would prefer to enroll in the district to utilize the school’s curriculum and use Lebanon Online.