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Intense work to connect with seniors pays off

July 10, 2020


Months of intense work to connect with seniors during Distance Learning pays off

Students, school staff, and families work together to navigate new learning environment and ensure students graduate on-time, ready for the future

The COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic forced school buildings to close in mid-March and required educators throughout the Gresham-Barlow School District and the state of Oregon to transition to Distance Learning for All almost overnight. Educators found themselves working to connect with students online rather than face-to-face. For many students, particularly at the secondary level, this new way of learning was challenging and many disconnected completely.

GBSD high schools tracking the Class of 2020 knew by April that hundreds of seniors once on track to graduate were now headed toward earning incompletes. This data prompted high schools to not only continue in the previous work of providing intense academic and attendance support to keep high school students on track to graduate, but to double down on the individual attention and relationships previously built to support each student to recover incomplete credits that were building because of distance learning. The district’s instructional leadership team, led by Assistant Superintendent Lisa Riggs, collaborated with school staff in this effort.

When all was said and done, 93% or more of seniors who were enrolled in Gresham-Barlow schools in March received a diploma. Ninety-three percent of seniors at Gresham High School, 95% of Sam Barlow High School seniors, and 100% of seniors at Springwater Trail High School graduated on time. These preliminary numbers will contribute to an increase in our overall graduation rate for 2019-2020 school year which will be finalized later this year.

“I attribute our seniors’ success to the Class of 2020 and the hard work and dedication of our Gresham High School community,” said Gresham High School Principal Drake Shelton. “I thank the parents for their unwavering support and grit they displayed throughout our distance learning model.”

“This year we posted a 95% graduation rate with our seniors who were with us in March at the time of the school closure,” said Sam Barlow High School Principal Bruce Schmidt. “We are very proud of these students and the work our staff did to get so many of them across the line. For those who did not finish, we have plans in place for them to complete this summer and into next year.”

“I am extremely proud of our graduates and the strong, unwavering support of our families and staff who successfully navigated the challenging final few months of school,” said Springwater Trail High School Principal Ryan Blaszak.

Students, educators, and families experienced both successes and challenges during Distance Learning for All. The Gresham-Barlow School District is using the learning experience to inform its planning for fall 2020. Due to the various requirements put in place by the Oregon Department of Education to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff, the structure of the educational program is sure to look different and may require online instruction.

“The exemplary work of our staff, as demonstrated by the educators who worked so hard to connect with graduates and makes sure they crossed the finish line demonstrates we can overcome obstacles that appear insurmountable,” said Superintendent Dr. A. Katrise Perera. “The Gresham-Barlow School District will be ready for our learners to return this fall and we are committed to making sure our students receive the education they deserve, whatever the circumstances.”