Column: Earlier this week, I shared the information below directly with DPS staff and parents regarding our plan to transition to digital learning if we must ever close school due to COVID. The stress levels for schools certainly peaked this week, but I think it is important to reassure everyone that DPS has been following a plan since the beginning of this semester. COVID has been hard for schools, hitting DPS in the most personal and tragic ways this week. Everyone is concerned, but in my conversations this week with our principals, Association of Duncan Educators, and the Superintendent advisory committee, I have heard one resolute voice from staff: Duncan Public Schools should stay open if possible. I think that should speak volumes to this community about DPS educators. I am humbled to serve with them.
Yes, it has been hard, but so far, we have been able to stay open by sticking with our plan, and by the continued Grace of God and the support of our DPS community, we will remain open. May you all have a blessed, restful, and healthy Thanksgiving. Here is what I shared with staff and parents this week:
Duncan Public Schools Plan for Transitioning to Virtual Learning
Many of you are probably wondering if DPS will be transitioning to “virtual learning” like other districts across the state. Many districts have done so based on the Oklahoma State School Boards Association map, which recently upgraded Stephens County to “red.” (Links are below to OSSBA and Health Department COVID maps.)
Understandably, this concerns staff, parents, and students. At this time, however, DPS has no immediate plans to transition to district-wide virtual learning. It is always a possibility, but we are currently still following the three-stage plan that the DPS Board of Education adopted for transitioning to virtual learning. Below are those stages:
· Level One Virtual Learning (Small Groups and Individuals): Individuals, small groups, and classes impacted by COVID are able to transition to virtual learning as needed, which has happened frequently during this school year. So far, we have been able to manage COVID at Level One.
· Level Two Virtual Learning (Whole School): The next option would be to temporarily close a particular school site. Due to the nature of COVID (like flu season), each site will be impacted differently. Under this option, we could close several DPS sites and still keep school open for the majority of students, staff, and parents. So far this year, we have not had to close any single school site.
· Level Three Virtual Learning (District-wide Closure): If we ever reached a point when too many sites were impacted to keep the remaining sites open, we would transition the entire district to virtual learning. Although it is possible that we could close the entire district without first closing sites, it is unlikely, and we will work tirelessly to keep schools and all of DPS open as long as we can. So far, we have been successful. (Link to Policy Below)
Every single quarantine case comes through my office, so I have personally witnessed the vigilance of the Stephens County Health Department and our staff in minimizing (and preventing) spread of COVID in schools. Our schools are their top priority, and as inconvenient as quarantines have been, they have kept our staff and students safe. So far, our plan is working.
We will be reviewing this daily while Stephens County is in the “red zone,” and hopefully, our schools will continue to be safe places from COVID, even if the whole county is “red.” Nevertheless, we will never do anything to jeopardize the health of our students or staff. If we must close schools to protect everyone, we certainly will. I know this does not answer every question, but you know your principals, teachers, and School Board. You also know our local Health Department officials. This is their community, their schools, and their children, too. If nothing else, trust these fellow Duncanites at this critical time.
We will take the next few weeks one day at a time, but whatever we do, we will do it together for the sake of our children. God willing, that means keeping schools open. As always, you may contact me with any questions directly. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.