12/18/2020 Message from McDaniel | Return to Campus Plan - January 2021 & Weekly COVID-19 Update
OKCPS Families and Staff:
As we all prepare for the winter holidays, I want to share our plans for the second semester, so you have time to prepare.
I have spent much of this month listening--listening to our teachers, families, and students about their concerns regarding school and about the health situation. I’ve also been listening to our health officials as we have seen a spike in virus transmission and hospitalizations after the Thanksgiving holiday. Here is what we know: we are all concerned about the threat of the coronavirus to ourselves and our loved ones. We also know that OKCPS schools being remote or in-person has not had an impact on community spread. In fact, the best science suggests that children ages 10 and under are less likely to contract or spread the virus. Weighing all of these factors, in consultation with our partners at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, we plan to begin second semester with all students in a remote setting for two weeks, and then gradually return students to classrooms in an A/B setting beginning January 19 with our youngest learners and high-need groups as the priority.
These are hard decisions because every option has serious consequences. From the beginning we have said we would do what is safe and responsible, and OKCPS has never wavered from the health and safety of our students, families and staff being our top priority. But, we are also committed to considering critical second factors: the opportunities that students and families are losing by not having access to in-person services. What we have heard from staff and families confirms that these are values we all share.
I have also been reflecting on how far we have come since the beginning of this school year. Now, we have moved beyond the “big 3” safety strategies (social distancing, hand washing, and face coverings), and we have a six-point strategy to dramatically reduce the chances that the coronavirus can spread in our buildings. We have added:
- Active ionization systems in every classroom and workspace in every school: These systems have a 99.4% kill rate for the virus and refresh the air about every 12 minutes, similar to the systems on airplanes. In addition to this, every other month, every school will be sprayed with an antimicrobial shield that lasts for 90 days.
- Site-based contact tracing: Coordinated by a central team of experts, every school has at least two staff members trained to identify any risk of spread when there are positive Covid cases in our schools.
- Rapid testing for staff and their families: OKCPS now has 7 locations where staff and members of their households (over the age of 18) can voluntarily access Covid testing, giving peace of mind when potential exposures occur.
I believe it is both safe and responsible to take this new information--including the Governor’s shift of our teachers and school staff to Phase 2 on the priority list for vaccine distribution--into account. OKCPS will continue to work closely with our local health officials to plan moving forward, but the new information that we have learned in the last month means the responsible thing to do is to reduce our reliance on the color code system and safely begin to bring students back.
I am a planner, and I have heard loud and clear that our families and teachers need some consistency and certainty. I would have loved to lay out our whole second semester, but OCCHD has advised us against making decisions beyond January because of their forecasts of high transmission and hospitalizations throughout January. What I can tell you is at this time, we are tentatively planning for a February 1 return for students in grade 5-12 in an A/B setting. In the last two weeks of January, we will be in consultation with OCCHD on whether we can move forward with this plan based on the outcomes of the choices we make as a community over the next month. We will not consider a full-time return for students until it is safe to ease up on physical distancing in our classrooms.
As a reminder, families who don’t feel comfortable returning to campus have an option. If a family does not wish to return to campus by February 1, they should reach out to their school to request a shift to our e3 Online Learning program, which is our fully virtual option. Please note that selecting e3 is a commitment through Spring Break for our students in grades PK-8 and through the end of the second semester for high school students.
I feel the weight of these decisions, and I know you do too. There is no doubt 2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, but I am so proud of how OKCPS students, families, staff and our community have come together to innovate and support one another during these unprecedented times. And, I know that continued collaboration will only strengthen as we look toward January and a new year.
As we turn to a time of reflection and family over the holidays, I encourage each of you to please remain vigilant in your own safety practices as well. Because there is one thing we can all agree on...we are all still in this together.
Stay safe, everyone.
Dr. Sean McDaniel
Detailed Timeline for our Return to Campus Plan
January 4, 2021
- Begin the second semester utilizing the Remote Learning model for all students
- Teachers to Return to Campus to teach from their classroom
- Secondary extracurricular activities will continue
- The 90 minute extra-curricular block will be allowed for MS and HS during Remote Learning at principal’s discretion
- Children in Workplace Program resumes for children of employees who are OKCPS students
- Routes To Resources (R2R) program resumes
- OKCPS Curbside Meal Service resumes at all school sites
January 19, 2021
- Students in grades PK-4th will Return to Campus for in-person learning in A/B setting for the remainder of the month of January.
- Additional small groups of students will return to campus for in-person learning:
- SPED Self-Contained Classrooms (4 days a week; Monday is remote; Tuesday-Friday is in-person)
- Alternative Education Students (Putnam Heights, Emerson North & Emerson South) will transition to the A/B setting
- Students in our HOPE program will transition to the A/B setting
- Children in Workplace Program will continue for children of employees
- Students in grades 5th-12th will continue with Remote Learning.
February 1, 2021
- Consider bringing students in grades 5th - 12th back for in-person learning in A/B Setting
OKCPS Weekly COVID-19 Update
Today, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) indicates that the cases per 100,000 for Oklahoma County are 84.1, as compared to 84.5 last week. This means Oklahoma County remains in the OSDE’s Red Alert Level.
Each Friday, OKCPS reports the number of “self-reported” positive COVID-19 cases, along with the number of individuals who have been asked to isolate due to potential exposure to the virus.
“Close Contact” Exposure refers to the number of cases when a staff member or student was in “close contact” with a person who has tested positive for COVID and has been asked to isolate. “Close contact” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention occurs when an individual is within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days (or 48 hours) before the infected person’s onset of symptoms.
Self-Reported Positive Cases refers to the number of cases when a staff member or student has notified OKCPS of positive results from a COVID-19 test.
COVID-19 Reporting During Winter Break
For Staff: Staff should continue to report positive test results for COVID-19. There are two ways for employees to report:
- Call (405) 587-CV19* OR
- Submit the Employee COVID-19 Reporting Form
If you call the CV19 line, please leave a message and a member of the Contact Tracing team will return your call to provide information concerning isolation dates and additional resources. It’s important for staff to report a positive case even during the break, because isolation dates could continue into the start of the second semester. We also want to be able to provide resources to employees who may need it.
For families: Families should resume reporting positive test results for COVID-19 when the second semester starts on January 4, 2021 by calling their child’s school.