June 3, 2020—The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent the media a new release about state level contingency planning for the 2020-21 academic year. The plan is called “Return To Learn Oklahoma: A Framework For Opening Schools,” following the April statewide closure of public schools due to the coronavirus crisis.
The document outlines a variety of contingencies including beginning the school year earlier, considering school on Saturday, and implementing both traditional and distance learning, all while keeping individuals six feet apart “whenever possible.”
Disruptions, either short-term or long-term, are expected.
OSDE RETURN TO LEARN DOCUMENT excerpts:
When resuming in-person instruction in school buildings, schools should generally consider ways to keep individuals apart. When in groups, individuals should be separated by at least six feet whenever possible. The CDC indicates the risk of virus transmission can be reduced by keeping cohorts of students together and not intermixing groups, although this option might be less feasible for secondary students.
Prepare to Close Common Areas
Additionally, schools should be prepared to close common areas where staff may gather or require staff to wear masks if the space does not allow for appropriate social distancing. For areas like
cafeterias, auditoriums, gymnasiums and playgrounds, schools should consider dividing students into groups small enough to maintain social distancing and mark appropriate distancing with tape to help students know where to sit or stand.
What to do if there’s a positive Covid-19 test
If a staff member or student tests positive, schools should follow these steps:
■ Immediately isolate the individual if they are at school. Send the ill staff member home and call families to pick up sick children as quickly as possible. Plan now for a room or area where an
individual can be isolated if they cannot immediately leave the premises.
■ School nurses and other healthcare providers should use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions when caring for sick people.
■ Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone with severe symptoms from COVID-19 to a healthcare facility in case of an emergency. If calling an ambulance or taking someone to the
hospital, try to call ahead to alert hospital staff that the person may have COVID-19.
■ Contact the local county health department first to report the case. If you have trouble reaching someone, phone the Oklahoma State Department of Health on-call epidemiologist at (405) 271-
■ Identify and close areas of the school building where the individual spent more than 30 minutes. Wait for at least 24 hours, or as long as possible, before staff disinfect the area with
approved cleaners in accordance with CDC and Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines.
■ Work with health officials to determine if school closure is warranted and for additional measures the school must take to contain exposure.
Flexible Calendars, including Saturdays
Alternate calendars might include the following considerations:
■ Start early and reduce summer time off to minimize “summer slide” and maximize learning time before a possible resurgence of COVID-19.
■ Develop an intercessional calendar with longer breaks through the year for additional flexibility (e.g., start early, long winter break and other breaks, later end date).
– Use for remediation/acceleration; students not mastering content could return for intersession week(s).
– Allow teachers to focus on ensuring that struggling students move toward mastery.
■ Extend times that the school is open for instruction. Under this strategy, schools might start the day earlier or extend school time in the afternoon, offer night classes and/or allow for Saturday instruction. Note: Oklahoma law currently requires the State Board of Education to grant a district waiver prior to offering school on Saturday. On May 28, 2020, the State Board of Education granted a waiver to allow districts the option to offer school on Saturday and have it count for attendance purposes in meeting school year calendar requirements.
Districts electing any of these options should consider community input and be cognizant of medical and religious exemptions to compulsory attendance provided in applicable laws.
No word yet on the plans Luther Public Schools will be making. The June School Board Meeting will be Monday, June 8, at 6:30 pm.
The OSDE recommends school districts develop a district leadership team including administrators, teachers, staff, student family members and even members of the community to help with communication, protocols and other tasks.
In spite of what students might have mastered independently, or with parents’ help while home educating, Supt. of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister indicated that educators will have a challenge ahead with their students.
“Every summer, we confront the so-called “summer slide,” and
educators plan ways to quickly review the previous year’s learning
after school resumes in the fall. As we prepare for the coming school
year, we face a twofold learning loss – the summer slide has been
compounded by a strikingly unconventional ending to the spring term,” she said.