Luther – Wearing masks, and seated apart more than the required six-feet of social distance, the Luther School Board met for its regular April meeting. There was nothing regular about it.
Just one month ago, Superintendent Barry Gunn shared a contingency plan at the March board meeting for “if” there would be any Covid-19 cases. Little did anyone imagine, that when the 800 LPS students left for Spring Break later that week, they would not be allowed to return to their brick and mortar buildings for the rest of the school year because of the pandemic.
Mr. Gunn told the board the district began “distance learning” on April 6, and that he is “very proud of Luther teachers and administrators for their work. Our plan stacks up and we are leading the way.” Students’ grades will not drop from what they earned before school closed, but students do have an opportunity to raise their grades with their distance learning assignments.
Gunn also used the word “if” when it comes to whether a new school year will open in August. Plans and hopes are for the year to kickoff as normal, but Gunn said they are also planning for what virtual school might look like for a new education year. “We are hoping it is not that way for when we come back in August, but we are preparing.” Some of the ideas being floated even include making school buses into internet hot spots to park throughout the vast rural school district.
Board President Steve Broudy asked whether any savings being realized because of the school’s closure on things like fuel, utilities and supplies could be put toward shoring up the technology offerings of the school district. Gunn said that is in the works. After the meeting, board member Tony Rumpl referenced the failure of the January 2019 bond issue that included Chromebooks for every student because “folks said we didn’t need technology.”
Gunn said his principals and teachers are making every effort to check-in with families and students to ensure students have what they need. The district is distributing almost 400 meals a day (breakfast and lunch) to students to anyone that asks through a drive-through each morning at the elementary school. There is also a couple of satellite distribution areas. He said the lunch staff is considering distributing two-day breakfast and lunch bags on Thursdays, to save families at least one trip to town a week.
The April school board meeting also featured the appointment of a school board member. The only candidate for the position to fill the seat vacated by Sherri Anderson was the venerable and beloved “Coach” Marcellus Fields. The vote to name him a school board member was unanimous.
Fields, a graduate of Luther High School, returned to Luther Public Schools to teach and coach from 1985 to 2007 after teaching at Moon Middle School in Oklahoma City. He was the first black teacher at Luther High School. He joked that he coached for just about any sport the school offered, even golf and rodeo at one point. But he is best remembered as the basketball coach and Oklahoma History teacher. He still quizzes former students when he sees them. He did that tonight, good-naturedly, to two former students who are now his fellow board members.
When asked about why Coach Fields put his hat in the ring to be on the school board, he said “it’s one thing I have not done.” In addition to his educational career, Coach Fields is also known as Reverend Dr. Fields, as the longtime pastor of the Allen Chapel AME church in Oklahoma City.
Coach Fields said he would do anything to help the students.