With the 2019-2020 school year finishing in an unusual way due to COVID-19, Duncan Public Schools began preliminary plans for the new learning year during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.
Duncan Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Deighan, during his monthly report, first addressed a donation from Endurance Federal Credit Union for the Duncan Demon Debit Card program.
Deighan thanked members from Endurance Federal Credit Union for the annual donation, which this year brought $7,000 to the district.
Upon presenting the Oklahoma State Department of Education plan for resuming school, Deighan said principals, administrative staff and others have discussed contingency plans for 2020-2021.
“This is a quote from the State Department plan. It says, ‘Current CDC guidelines recommend screening students/employees for symptoms and history of exposure,' but there are no specific requirements of how this must be done,” Deighan said. “This is entirely up to the school district to figure this out. We have been looking at what other districts do and we just want to hear from the board as we formulate these plans.”
Assistant Superintendent Merry Stone highlighted some elements they are looking at and said she hopes school will start traditionally in August.
“Our hope and prayer is that we have school as normal this year and that is what I will first say because we hope to have a traditional school year with kids in a classroom with a teacher,” Stone said. “But we also know what we experienced this year that we had to be prepared for it quickly and adjust to it quickly so we can’t move into a new school year without a plan.”
Stone said this isn’t a new plan, and the district used a previous bond to obtain a lot of technology. Students already on the secondary level use a blended virtual program and a full-time virtual program.
“We have this going on right now with over 100 kids … blended or full-time virtual in our district,” Stone said. “We have been doing that for several years once we went 1-to-1 and had Oddeseyware and some options for kids at home. We have had families that have taken advantage of that.”
She stated that has been on an individual basis and not really publicized, though it will now make it easier for students to have access to accommodations if the school year calls for any cancellations.
“There are already families right now concerned with school starting and concerned about if we have a closure or if we have a breakout at one of our schools,” Stone said. “We have a lot of options. There maybe a time that one of our schools have a breakout and we might look at a site level closure.”
Stone also mentioned they have to stay prepared for anything, including extended holidays. She wanted to tell families that a plan is ready and will be used to help keep everyone comfortable with students being at home or at school.
Deighan and Stone both said they will have a possibility of discussing more ideas with principals and other faculty members. Then, they presented three different options for the board to consider.
Board members discussed some concerns of the three options. Stone said they will have meetings with parents and seek out opinions of stakeholders before a full plan is released.
Surveys released in early June and Stone said a majority of people who answered are in favor of returning to traditional school. A full plan will be released before school starts and the district will push out a FAQ that will detail the plan going forward.
“It makes people nervous to think about — if I’m going to have 15 kids in my classroom and then I will have to teach 10 kids online — and that is not what our program is going to look like,” Stone said. “Our program is actually going to be an online program that is self-sustaining and self-grading and the teachers will have to take those grades and import them in our grade books.”
Duncan’s Board of Education will host a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 22 to discuss the annual strategic plan. The next regular meeting will take place at 6 p.m. July 14 at the administration building for Duncan Public Schools.