SALEM, OR (KPTV) - Wednesday was the first day of school for more than 40,000 students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools, after having to postpone the start date a couple days due to wildfires.

The superintendent of the district, Christy Perry, told FOX 12 that kids have been mostly affected by the smoke. She said some staff members who usually commute in, however, were forced to evacuate.

“What I will say is our educators have done an incredible job in the midst of really tough changes in the system, new technology and are really showing up for our kids and what we keep reminding them, what our kids need most, is just to see them, so that’s our week,” said Perry.

“The wildfires have made everything a little rockier for us, too,” she continued. “Last week we had about 400 staff members across the district on evacuations, but again our whole district as one team has really shown up for our kids today.”

Online learning

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FOX 12 also spoke with a principal at McNary High School, along with two teachers there to see how the first day went.

“It was such an emotional and exciting time,” said teacher Macy Bowser.

Students had a short day Wednesday, meeting with their advisory teachers. The focus for the first day was care and connection.

“I have seniors in my advisory class and they’ve been with me for five years and obviously there’s stress with not being at school, but they had a whole lot of fun teasing each other and seeing each other virtually, so it really was an energizing meeting,” said teacher Wendy Bennett.

“I popped into one group with one of my new kids and I was like, hey how’s it going, and the one girl who is new chimed right up and was like I’m making friends and I was just taken back by that,” said Bowser. “I was so happy, and I was like good, I’m so happy you guys are talking and getting to know each other.”

They told FOX 12 all the new technology and how it works is the biggest hurdle right now.

“Nothing has been earth shattering difficult when it comes to technology, it’s just the enormity of everything being new and that goes for me as a principal and I know it certainly goes with the teachers as well,” said principal, Erik Jespersen.

They said the motto this year, though, is giving everyone space and grace.

“There are great people that care about one another, care about our kids, care about our school, our community, and when you’ve got that there’s just an energy there and so I feel uplifted by that positive energy and so we’re OK,” said Jespersen. “We’re going to work through this.”

“I told my advisory kids this a few times today, like it will all be fine,” said Bowser. “It’s all going to work its way out.”

“Everything will be great,” she continued. “We just have a lot to learn and that’s OK.”

Students are set to start instruction Thursday.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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