December 1, 2020

Dear EPS Families,

I have been in contact with some parents who have expressed concerns about returning to the A/B schedule this week while Oklahoma County remains in the “Red,” as it relates to the district’s Return to Learn plan approved in July. I want to take this opportunity to make you aware of a change in the guidance provided by the State Department of Education (SDE) regarding school and building closures when Oklahoma County is in the “Red.”

On July 28, the Edmond Board of Education approved following the SDE guidance for school openings and closings using a color-coded assessment system based on Covid-19 rates per 100,000 cases. It was the approval of that plan, which caused the district to start in the year in an A/B schedule.

In mid-September, the SDE made several notable changes to its plan. Instead of requiring districts to transition to remote learning if the county where they are located moved into the “Red,” the SDE recommended that districts consult with the City County Health Department (OCCHD) to make informed decisions based on local data. After consulting with the OCCHD, their representatives declared that Edmond’s “A/B schedule is working and we should continue to monitor our local Covid-19 data to make decisions.”

So, while we abruptly transitioned to remote learning the week prior to Thanksgiving break, it was not specifically because we moved into the “Red” but more a result of depleted staff at several schools which made it difficult to provide instruction and adequate supervision. We concluded that a week of remote learning followed by a week of Thanksgiving break would provide adequate time for most staff members who were Covid-19 positive or in quarantine to return to their duties.

When making decisions about openings and closings, we examine multiple sources of data including the number of cases per 100,000 in Edmond, and real-time school site data on the percentage of staff and students who are positive or in quarantine. As of Monday morning, .5% of students were Covid-19 absent with most of those being quarantines, and 2.5% of all staff were Covid-19 absent with most of those being quarantines as well. By comparison, the OCCHD says schools should be on “watch” when 3% of the population of a school is Covid-19 positive and should close when 5% of the school population is under Covid-19 isolation. We have had very little community spread in the schools. The vast majority of cases are coming from outside the school walls.

In returning to the A/B schedule, the administration also considered the following:

  • The importance of keeping more than 300 support staff members employed with benefits. If we stayed on a remote schedule, they would not be paid in December. Last spring’s special legislation that allowed support personnel to be paid is no longer in effect. In addition, they may not ever return which would exacerbate a shortage in many areas such as transportation and child nutrition.  In the event of protracted remote schooling, many other support personnel positions might also be affected.
  • The importance of in-person instruction. These nine weeks we have had seven days of face-to-face learning for each A/B group up to this point. To lose the last six days of in-person learning this semester could be detrimental to students.

Please be assured that we are watching the data very closely. I have a granddaughter, son, and daughter-in-law all learning or working in Edmond Schools so I understand the importance of looking at this ever-changing situation from multiple points of view.

As I stated in a previous email, if the Thanksgiving surge happens, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks from now, we will examine our local data and could make adjustments to our plan if necessary.

Thank you for your continued partnership as we work to make the best decisions for all stakeholders. As a reminder, please keep your children home if they have symptoms of Covid-19. In addition, please do not send students to school who are waiting on test results as this action could force other students and staff members to have to quarantine. It is imperative that you keep your child home until they receive a negative test result.

Until my next communication, please take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Sincerely,