The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education adopted revised student and teacher policies that reflect the new realities of doing an all-virtual start for the school year coming up August 31.
In other business the BOE voted for the purchase of a lot that touches the current parking lot south across the street from the new Administration Building at 615 N. Classen Boulevard.
Revised student policies
Because of the virtual start to the school year the district recommended a number of changes to student policies and voted to temporarily wave the usual requirement of hearing proposals once and then taking up the vote in a future meeting.
Embedded documents below each explanation are the markup copy showing the old policy language and the new.
The Sexual Harassment of Students policy was changed to tighten definitions and expectations of student conduct toward other students and conduct of teachers toward students.F-01_SEXUAL-HARASSMENT-OF-STUDENTS-marked-up-July-31-2020
Bullying is now defined extending to online communication and phone communications.F-20_BULLYING-marked-up-Aug-3-2020
One phrase added to the Student Uniforms policy now allows for students to not be compelled to wear uniforms while engaging in virtual education although some board members expressed concern that students still dress appropriately when on a video chat with groups or with their teacher.F-22_STUDENT-UNIFORMS-marked-up-8-3-20
Electronic Communications Devices
Massive changes were made to the district’s formerly-termed “Wireless Communication” policy to reflect the big changes from in-person to virtual education. The district is moving toward a model of teaching that will heavily incorporate an online component even if in-person classroom teaching resumes later in the year.
The first change was the terminology in the title itself. Now it is the policy for Electronic Communications Devices.F-25_WIRELESS-TELECOMMUNICATION-DEVICES-marked-up-July-2020
The policy guiding Internet safety was heavily revised replacing whole pages with new pages of directives.
Much of the new language was due for a change anyway even if the district had not been in a situation where they would have to hold all-virtual classes. The new policy language represents maturing concepts of best practices for student and teacher Internet use.F-26_INTERNET-and-other-networks-responsible-use-marked-up-8-3-10
The Virtual Instruction policy was changed from the “Online Instruction” title and establishes uniform definitions and expectations, including the application of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules that guard the privacy of individual student records.
It also establishes guidelines for providing equitable access.I-09-INTERNET-BASED-INSTRUCTION-marked-up-Aug-3-2020
Revised teacher policies
The issue of what work expectations teachers would have was taken up by administrators and reported to the Board.
After consulting with the teachers union, expectations that teachers will conduct virtual education from their classrooms at their assigned school sites was established with clear guidelines about how teachers could request to continue to conduct their classes from home.
“The expectation is that every employee comes to work,” said Superintendent Sean McDaniel.
Board member Charles Henry relayed concerns he had heard from some teachers who just preferred to work from home and some who needed to because their school-aged children would be at home, too.
McDaniel and other administrators explained that in the case of children who needed adequate care and supervision during the teachers’ work day, child care will be provided at the school where the teacher works.
He said that in the situation where a teacher believes that they have a medical reason for not coming into the building during the pandemic, there are six steps we have summarized in the following list:
- Consult with a physician.
- Alert your immediate supervisor.
- Your immediate supervisor will refer the request to Human Resources.
- HR would then will work on arrangements to make accommodations for the teacher’s needs.
- The risk management team will contact you
- You will be communicated with to explain your options
McDaniel was careful to say that in any way that they were capable of making accommodations for teachers’ medical needs they would.
He said “the ideal place for a teacher is the classroom” even now since students would be staying home and teachers could practice distancing in their own building. Teachers would not be compelled to attend any in-person meetings that may be called and would have the option without questions to “Zoom in” to a meeting even if it was down the hall.
For more detailed information, teachers are encouraged to contact their immediate supervisors.
Tech training for parents
Gloria Torres relayed the concerns she has heard from parents who want training from the district about how to use the new virtual tools and capabilities of their children will have to use when school begins.
Rebecca Kaye, Chief of Information and Accountability, explained that district staff are working on a series of YouTube videos that will guide parents and students through the new devices and online capabilities.
Gatewood name will stay
Neighbors to the former Gatewood Elementary School have been distressed that the building’s name may be changed without any real process with the neighbors and the Gatewood Neighborhood Association.
The building has been repurposed for the coming year as an early childhood center that would draw children from beyond just the neighborhood.
The only comment for the meeting was from one of the neighbors asking the district to reconsider their intent to rename the building after Sandy Garrett, the revered long-term state superintendent of schools prior to Janet Baressi and Joy Hofmeister.
Tyler Holmes who identified himself as “the parent of a young child and Gatewood neighbor” submitted a written comment opposing the renaming of “Gatewood Elementary, a staple in our community for over 90 years.”
“If our 93 year old neighborhood school is going to be renamed, we can waitan extra month to allow public input from our neighbors,” wrote Holmes.
Board member Carrie Jacobs explained that she was going to vote “no” because she believed the current policy had “too low of a threshold for renaming a school.” She argued that when the district renamed schools that had names of confederate generals it was only after a process that involved the neighbors and alumni.
In the end, the motion to rename the building failed because of a combination of no and abstention votes from the board members.
In a phone call after the meeting we asked Jacobs to elaborate on her explanation of her pending no vote on the measure.
“The district did that because there needed to be a way more inclusive and a better process and the policy process was not great,” said Jacobs. “And, it’s something that we’ve talked about in our policy committee meetings.
“What’s sad is that Sandy Garrett is incredible. I hate that the process didn’t back up renaming a building after her.”
Jacobs said that it doesn’t rule out the possibility that a good community process would still come out with renaming the building after the former state superintendent.
The entire agenda and supporting documents can be found HERE.