CAMAS – While most Camas-Washougal families with K-12 students returned to five full days of in-person instruction last week, some have chosen to stay away.
“It’s safer,” Fernanda Titcomb said. “And I work from home so I can be there with them.”
Titcomb, a Camas mother of two young children – Santiago, 6, a first year, and Anela, 9, a fourth year – said she worried about the health of her children in light of the climbing rapid COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations in Clark County this summer.
“Hospitals are filling up, so where would we go if they got sick? ” she said.
Having no way to get his children vaccinated against COVID-19 because children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines, Titcomb had instead chosen to enroll Anela and Santiago in the district’s fully remote option. school of Camas – Camas Connect Academy.
On August 24, dozens of families showed up at the Zellerbach District Administration Center to meet with Camas Connect Academy staff and collect their students’ school supplies, including the Chromebooks that Connect Academy students are on. will support throughout the 2021-2022 school year.
Daniel Huld, the new director of Connect Academy, said he spoke with families who are already enrolled in the remote school or who are interested in learning more about Connect Academy.
Most, Huld said, are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children and families.
“We have two groups of people – one group that really wants an online school, who would be with us, COVID or not, and another group whose primary concern is COVID,” Huld said. “There are two areas of ‘COVID families’ – those who are concerned about the delta variant and those who don’t want their children to wear a mask.”
Connect Academy staff are developing a program that will meet the needs of all students, regardless of their family’s reasoning for enrolling in the remote school, Huld added.
The Distant School began in 2020 to provide more stability for families who wanted their students to stay away when their neighborhood schools switched to a hybrid of distance and in-person education. District leaders decided in early 2021 to maintain Connect Academy.
“The world has changed during the pandemic, and many families have realized that online learning fit their lifestyle or worked very well for their students,” the district says on the Connect Academy website. “Camas Connect Academy will be here for a long time to… serve digital learners. “
Connect Academy recorded a high level of student engagement during the 2020-21 school year, with almost 89% of students regularly attending their online classes and only 15% of students reporting more than two absences per month.
Huld said his hope for the new Camas Connect Academy is that it will help serve Camas families who longed for an alternative to in-person schooling that was not a complete departure from the school district.
“Even though this is a new program, I’m trying to bring in the right people, with the right experience, and create something lasting for families in this area who wanted an online school but didn’t have that option, ”Huld says.
Connect Academy students will still have access to a variety of after-school and athletic programs in their neighborhood schools, and elementary students will be able to attend in-person music lessons at Lacamas Lake Elementary School.
While the Connect Academy curriculum provides more flexibility for families, middle and high school students will have a more flexible schedule than elementary students, who should be on Zoom with their teachers and classmates every day. from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. before elementary teachers break into individual and small group sessions for elementary students who need extra support during school hours. afternoon.
At the middle and secondary levels, students are more independent – they consult their teachers for advisory visits, but they have the flexibility to plan their school hours around the times of the day that work best for them and their families. .
“The 6-12 environment is a bit more flexible and more focused on consultative visits with teachers,” Huld said.
“I like flexibility”
Connect Academy’s more accommodating program drew 14-year-old Sophia Johnson to the new school. A ninth grade student who was homeschooled before enrolling at Connect Academy, Johnson said she had been taking figure skating lessons since she was 7 and liked the fact that the new distance school does not make him choose between her homework and her. athletic pursuits.
“I like the flexibility,” Johnson said.
Bre-Ann Richardson, the Connect Academy counselor, came to the remote school after working at Camas High School for the past five years. She said the new distance learning academy is ideal for students like Johnson who “appreciate being able to work at their own pace and… create a schedule that works for them.”
And although many Camas families said during the 2020-21 school year that their students should be back inside school buildings and around their peers for the sake of their socio-emotional health, Richardson said. said she discovered that many Connect Academy students had rich social connections. lives outside of school.
“Many of our families and students are still connected to their community through extracurricular activities and sports, or church,” said Richardson. “And we will have opportunities for students to connect, to be together and to interact.”
Camas Connect Academy students can also choose to participate in in-person activities such as robotics clubs, music and music lessons, and play high school sports through Camas High.
“As our school grows, we will have more of these types of opportunities,” said Richardson.
As Connect Academy’s first year as a dedicated school approaches, Richardson and Huld said they were excited about the possibilities the distance academy offers students, families and educators.
“I’m thrilled because we’re getting really innovative in how we meet the needs of our students and families,” said Richardson.
The deadline for students in Camas School District already enrolled in schools in their neighborhood but hoping to enroll in Camas Connect Academy for the 2021-22 school year was Friday.
For students who are not currently enrolled in Camas School District or for those who are home-schooled, the Connect Academy application deadline is October 15.