As most students in Bend sign online for the start of Distance Learning this Fall, the doors of one local school remain wide open for children in Central Oregon aged 2-14.
Finding good child care in this town is tough in the best of times, but the effects of COVID-19 have only amplified our local child-care crisis. Day care and school closures have left working parents in the lurch, scrambling to find viable schooling options for their families while keeping employers happy.
As an Emergency Child Care Facility, the Waldorf School of Bend (WSB) remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic for students in Nursery through eighth grade. The sounds of happy, laughing children fill the socially distanced halls and spacious green outdoor playgrounds, while classes in watercolor painting, woodwork, hand crafts, Spanish and other speciality subjects provide a rich curriculum to supplement supervised online learning for older elementary students.
“When coronavirus hit last Spring, everyone was forced to adapt quickly to the new normal,” says School Director Nate Brocious, “We made a plan for the Fall that would allow families in Central Oregon the flexibility to safely enroll for in-person schooling. Not a lot of schools are able to provide what we can right now, but it’s our plan to keep our doors open to the public for the duration of this crisis and beyond.”
With hand-washing stations and symptom checks at the front door, rigorous cleaning schedules and masks for all staff and students age 5 and up, the school has taken numerous safety precautions to guard against the spread of communicable disease and to be in compliance with all local and state government requirements.
“We struggled with the decision on whether to send our son Tyler to in-person school this year. Thanks to the diligent work by the Waldorf School of Bend staff, we are confident that the school and teachers are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep our children safe. Tyler is completely flourishing at school. I am so incredibly grateful that we have a safe place for him to go and learn and play and be cared for,” says Rebecca McGuire, WSB kindergarten parent.
In-person child care and schooling may be a rarity these days, but fortunately WSB is providing options to parents in need. A two-day, three-day or five-day-a-week on-site program for students in nursery, pre-k, kinder, first and second grade is taught using the Waldorf method that emphasizes creativity, free play and the arts, while a mixed-age cohort class for students in thirrd through seventh grade provides teacher-directed support in math, reading, the arts and other academic subjects for homeschooling and distance learning students. Meanwhile, a stand-alone eighth-grade hybrid class begins their day online at 10am but meets in person every afternoon for two hours after the little ones have left the building to run science labs, special projects and other hands-on lessons. The eighth grade is even open to international students, with classmates joining online from as far away as Merida, Mexico.
As a Department of Human Services (DHS)-approved school, WSB also helps eligible low-income families enroll in the Employment-Related Day Care Program (ERDC) to receive government subsidies for tuition and enrollment fees.
“We are committed to helping all families, no matter their income level or current financial situation during this public health crisis, find a place in our school if they are interested in enrolling,” says Rob Clemens, board president, “It’s a matter of equity to create a financial plan that works for everyone.”
Interested parents should contact Admissions Director Rachel Caldwell to learn more about WSB’s program options at 541-330-8841 or email RCaldwell@BendWaldorf.com.