The following is the Back to School letter from Superintendent Shelley Arrott that PCPS has sent out to all parents & staff.
Dear Wildcat Families,
Today, our teachers and many educational support staff returned to our facilities after a long five months to continue to prepare to welcome our students back to school, whether it be in the traditional classroom or virtually. They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of your children and are excited to finally be back in the classroom. Our staff members have worked tirelessly and diligently to create a Return to Learn Plan to do our best to keep your children, themselves, and our community healthy. Yet, like everyone else, they have lingering questions and concerns about this school year in the midst of a global pandemic, as I know you do too.
The latest set of data from the Oklahoma Department of Health released today, August 14, was promising. Using a color-coded alert system based on the number of new, active cases per 100K in population, Kay County remained in the Yellow Level, or low risk, category, with a risk level of 7.22. I am cautiously optimistic about this number as it has decreased. As long as we remain in the low risk category, I feel hopeful we will not go into full closure for a long period of time. However, reopening is likely not the hardest part – it is staying open that could present the biggest challenge. We could have intermittent closures, or two-week closures, to quarantine if we have positive cases within a particular classroom or site. Intermittent closure would not involve the entire district, just those who meet the close contact criteria and who could have been potentially infected. If an intermittent closure occurs, our teachers have been preparing all summer to pivot to Distance Learning, which is very different from the Continuous Learning we utilized during the spring closure. Our teachers will begin working with students on day one to help them become familiar with and to utilize Google Classroom for teaching students at home if particular groups have to quarantine. There will be attendance requirements and grades will be
taken, so quarantines will count as instructional days.
To reduce the risk of intermittent quarantines, we have put multiple layers of protection in place that follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. As you know, ALL students and staff will be required to wear a face covering while in the buildings and on buses, but our teachers are thinking outside of the box on creative ways to give students and themselves face covering breaks as often as possible. We will utilize outside learning environments whenever we have the opportunity. Each student and employee will be temperature screened before boarding a bus or when entering the building in the morning. If a fever of 100 degrees or more presents itself, we will isolate the student until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian, and we will send an employee home. Please keep your phones available and phone numbers up-to-date in the parent portal so we may reach you quickly, and please do not send your children to school with a fever. If a temperature check at the bus indicates your child cannot get on the bus, the driver will radio dispatch to call you and we will let you know your child is returning home.
We have decided to enter a Transition Period with Ponca City Virtual Academy, which involves students attending school virtually, through Options 2 and 3 Learning. As it was well publicized, we set the final day to register for PCVA as August 6. With the magnitude of interest in virtual options and new applications submitted daily, it was becoming quite challenging to plan for staffing for our brick and mortar and virtual options. We have moved some staffing assignments to support our virtual students effectively. However, with no Transition Period that allowed us to stop accepting new enrollees, we were making blind staffing decisions. We want our virtual and traditional options to be high quality and staffed appropriately. So, the Transition Period runs from August 6 to September 11, 2020. During the Transition Period students may move back to Option 1, or traditional learning. Parents may still complete an application for a virtual option, and we will create a list for those still interested in Option 2 or 3. We have already had many changes in learning options, and ultimately, we would like to have as many of our students as possible back in the classroom. After the Transition Period, we can make informed decisions about how to move forward. Submit virtual learning option applications without delay. We will move forward with placements after the Transition Period, or earlier if we deem we can serve students effectively. We realize there may be some vulnerable students or families and we will work to accommodate. Call us with questions at 580-767-8000.
Many parents are asking how we will handle situations in which students or staff present with potential symptoms of the virus while at school. If a student has symptoms that may be indicative of symptoms of COVID-19, our school nurses will be available for support and we will contact parents/guardians and isolate students until parents arrive. Curtis Layton, our Executive Director of Human Resources, and I both completed a contact tracing course through Johns Hopkins University this summer. We are not medical professionals, but we are trained to know the process for contact tracing. Our nurses, Mr. Layton, or I will contact the Kay County Health Department to report a symptomatic student. Parents/Guardians will take the child to KCHD for intake. No appointment will be necessary for school students or personnel. The KCHD will take the lead on testing and will provide education and instruction regarding the disease. Mr. Layton and I will work with KCHD officials to determine close contacts to make quarantine decisions.
I cannot stress enough the importance of PCPS families staying connected during these uncertain times. Please download the free PCPS App, follow Ponca City Public Schools Facebook page, join your child/children’s site Facebook page, and constantly monitor our website at www.pcps.us. I will continue to bring you weekly video updates each Monday and will provide frequent press releases to inform you of new details.
Finally, I cannot express how disheartening it has been for the decisions district leadership and the Board of Education have had to make. I know I have been broken hearted and have spent many sleepless nights since March 12 worrying about the safety, education, and mental wellbeing of our students. However, it is the number one priority to keep our students, staff, and community healthy and safe. We also want our students back in school for them to have full access to the academic, physical, and social and emotional opportunities school and teachers offer. We also have heavy hearts that some of these decisions have placed additional stress on families and contribute to further uncertainty and anxiety for our students and families. We all want this terrible pandemic to be over, and it will be at some point. Until that point, I ask that we all have patience, grace, flexibility, mercy, and forgiveness for each other as we travel through these uncharted waters together to protect everyone.
Even though this year will look different, these things will NOT look different:
We will continue to love all our students and families.
We will be diligent and do our very best to keep everyone healthy and safe.
We are still the PONCA CITY WILDCATS and TEAM PCPS.
Thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to navigate this situation together. We cannot wait to see your children, whom we call our own, next Wednesday!
Superintendent, Ponca City Public Schools #wildcatway #teampcps #gocats