Oregon parent helps create cardboard desks for at-home learning

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KGW/NBC) – With the uncertainty surrounding remote learning in many places, one Oregon parent noticed a big problem. Many children don’t have a space of their own to learn at home and many families can’t afford to change that.

Many parents would agree with Ric Shewell talking about the school year in 2020. “It was jarring,” he said. “Will we, won’t we close schools and then when we did close school it was for two weeks and then for four weeks and then we’re not coming back.”

Ric has two kids at McKay Elementary and is a member of the school’s parent-teacher club.

“Watching kids last spring, you know, they were doing Zoom and doing school on their beds on the floor, on the couch,” Ric said. “It was looking increasingly like they would be doing all distance-learning or learning from home and we thought, ‘What could we give the kids to help them succeed this year.’”

The answer was found in a material most have somewhere around the house: cardboard. The idea is to use it to make desks for every student and create a personal space for learning at home.
Ric said, “When their bodies are in that space, their minds say I’m ready to learn, I’m ready for education.”

The parent-teacher club, teamed up with a local box company. “Then one of the engineers in the parent-teacher club kind of worked hand-in-hand with the box company to come up with a design made sure it was strong enough and safe enough and the right size,” Ric explained.

They raised enough money through a GoFundMe campaign to order 350 desks. That’s a free desk for each student at McKay elementary.

Ric said, “We are actually working on the extra desks going to kids and families that are experiencing houselessness right now, so we’ll make sure that a few extra people get some desks that need them.”

The cardboard desks are expected to be delivered to families in the coming weeks.

“They can call it their own,” Ric said. “It’s their space, it is for school, and I think it’s going to make all the difference to help them engage and learn this year.”
And the big question is: will cardboard really hold up? Ric said they are sturdy enough to hold his weight and they come with all the corners folded down to make sure there are no sharp edges.

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