NPS Parent Update - July 2
Important information for parents
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First, I hope you will join me in congratulating Linda Sexton on her re-election to the Norman Board of Education. She has devoted more than 30 years to serving Norman Public Schools as a board member and it is an incredible honor that she will continue her commitment to serving students and teachers in our schools. We have a true advocate and ambassador in Linda, as she always has the best interests of students, teachers and staff in both her heart and mind.
As summer continues, so does our work to prepare for what will be an unprecedented start to the school year. While several districts already have communicated their back-to-school plans, we have opted to take a different approach with a measured, methodical process that engages many stakeholders and takes into account a variety of perspectives and circumstances. We are working hard to balance everyone’s “need to know” with providing well thought-out plans that are based on the most up-to-date guidance available during this time of rapid change. I believe this thoughtful approach sets us apart from many other districts.
As many of you know, we launched a Back-to-School Task Force in June that includes medical professionals, public health experts, parents, teachers, students, school board members and various stakeholders across the community. In conjunction with the task force, we have continued to monitor local, state and federal guidance, which includes that of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The task force has spent many hours working through a variety of scenarios and engaging in meaningful conversations about how to best accomplish our mission to prepare and inspire all students to reach their full potential while maintaining health and safety for both students and staff as top priorities. We also have carefully reviewed the ongoing feedback we have continued to receive from parents, students, teachers and staff.
Stakeholder input has been a very important part of our process. We facilitated multiple listening sessions with teachers, principals, parents and students to solicit input into the process and listen to concerns. Additionally, we twice surveyed teachers, staff members, and parents and also asked students to share their thoughts. Ninety percent of parents and guardians who participated in the survey told us they plan for students to return to school this fall, with 80 percent planning to enroll students in traditional school. Parents who participated told us their primary concern is that social distancing will be difficult for students but also worry students may be too restricted. A traditional school week was the most popular option among parents and about 40 percent of participants indicated they are interested in a hybrid or fully remote learning option. Staff members shared that they are concerned about social distancing and their personal health and closely ranked a traditional, five-day school week and a hybrid schedule. All of this information has been helpful as we shape our final plans and educational options.
The task force met again this week to further consider the ever-evolving information that is critical to sound decision making with regard to the start of school. As a result, we are getting closer to announcing a revised school calendar, multiple educational options for families, extensive health and safety protocols, social distancing practices, school cleaning procedures, relaxed attendance policies, transportation seating arrangements, and our expectations with regard to facial coverings, which are an important component to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
We remain on track to provide a comprehensive plan in mid July following our next board meeting. However, yesterday, it came to our attention that a flyer with some inaccurate information was circulating online. The flyer, which was NOT published by Norman Public Schools, has created a lot of angst and confusion. Some of the information on the flyer has been discussed in task force meetings while other information listed was completely inaccurate. The flyer also was void of any information about the extensive planning that continues with regard to expanded health and safety protocols. It is disappointing that someone would go to these lengths to create discord in an already unsettling time. That said, our discussions continue and our plans remain in development.
A firm decision that has been made at this point is that school will now start on Monday, August 17. This is a few days earlier than originally planned; however, this change is critical as it will allow us to make accommodations within the school calendar to provide ongoing professional development for teachers without pulling them away from their classrooms. Teachers will report back August 6 to begin the training necessary to prepare for a year that will be unlike any other. This is also important because of our investment in new learning management systems — Seesaw for elementary, Canvas for secondary — and to ensure we are providing teachers with the tools they need to be successful so we can easily pivot and adapt in the event of quarantine situations or any school closures that may become necessary as a result of the coronavirus.
The education options we will offer for our students include a traditional, in-person instruction option, a customizable blended option and full-time virtual options. Additional information about these options continues to be developed and will be provided soon in our comprehensive plan.
It is important to remember that every student and employee in our district brings a different perspective and set of circumstances that must be considered. I appreciate the task force members who have spent countless hours discussing how to best serve ALL students during this challenging time. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I know that we will rise to the occasion if we continue to work together, respect differing viewpoints, speak with kindness and demonstrate grace.
Finally, please know this: we are doing our very best to make decisions that accommodate and balance the health, safety and instructional needs of our students and staff. There is no perfect plan and I understand we will not be able to please everyone, as there are vastly differing opinions on nearly every aspect of returning to school. But my promise to you is that we will continue to monitor and follow guidance from local, state and federal experts and remain in a position to quickly adjust and adapt as the situation surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve. We will always put children first and remain committed to doing what we believe is in the best interest of our students and staff.
Dr. Nick Migliorino
Norman Public Schools