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The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education Friday voted to move the end of the school year to May 8 and to pay all personnel to the end of the year. The meeting was virtual on YouTube.

It was the beginning of what will be an ongoing effort to respond to the new reality of schools being closed statewide for the remainder of this school year ending June 30 due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be no activities of any type for the rest of the school year and teachers will not be allowed into their classrooms for the rest of the year to avoid congregating in school buildings.

New end date

The Board decided to follow Superintendent Sean McDaniel’s recommendation to move the date of the end of school from the current May 20 to May 8.

The board also considered but did not take action on the idea of having virtual graduation instead of the traditional ceremonies parents and students are accustomed to.

Details are still being worked out by McDaniel and staff who are in contact with other districts who are working on the details of how to achieve such a thing.

“We’re not going to quit on May 8,” said McDaniel. He said that staff are working on a plan to move summer school forward on the calendar to continue learning through the summer months as the nation adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pay continues

A relief to staff in the district in all roles, the Board took action to empower the superintendent to continue to pay personnel through the remainder of the fiscal year ending June 30.

That will be achieved by granting paid Emergency Administrative Leave.

Here is the full resolution that passed 7-0 (Gloria Torres was not online for the meeting):

Therefore, be it resolved, that despite the change to the last day of classes for students, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education directs the Superintendent of Schools to grant any support staff, teachers, administrators, and professional technical employees paid Emergency Administrative Leave necessary to allow such employees to be paid throughout the duration of their original 2019-2020 employment contracts.

The measure will relieve concern about pay, especially for support staff who receive the lowest tier of pay in the district.

While many employees are on negotiated contracts that remain in effect even if school is closed, there are employees who are full-time but paid on an hourly basis. The measure was intended to make sure all employees are paid through the end of the year.

“We are very appreciative of their commitment to employees,” said AFT-OKC union President Ed Allen told Free Press in a message after the meeting.

Instruction

McDaniel told the board that there will be online delivery of education to students but it would not be “the fourth quarter of the school year.”

Instead, it will be focused on stabilizing the students’ learning in a forced, chaotic environment. Instruction will be to review what students had been taught until schools were ordered closed statewide on March 17.

But, there will be no grades given and no homework required during this period of remote learning where so many students are in difficult circumstances along with their parents.

“Our mantra needs to be: no harm done,” said McDaniel. “No matter what, it cannot hurt the student.”

He said that teachers would need to work out ways to contact students to offer whatever help they may need.

It will be challenging enough for elementary teachers with 35 to 40 students. But for secondary teachers, that contact will be even more challenging.

Most high school teachers in regular classrooms carry about 160 students per semester on their rolls.

Online and Packets

Learning will be facilitated through online content and paper packets district staff is developing using the state standards and other guidelines state staff produce.

Online learning offers the most interaction with the teacher but McDaniel pointed out that a significant number of students do not have access to the internet at home and may not even have access to a phone either because of economics or age.

He said the district has a number of devices and his staff are working on possibilities for checking them out to students who need them. However, again, if the student doesn’t have access to the Internet, they still would be in a disadvantaged position.

So, district staff will be producing packets to hand out at feeding sites weekly each Monday. McDaniel said the district has partners who have volunteered to do the copying of the packets for free so the district’s budget wouldn’t be drained from the printing.

Currently, the district has a feeding program set up through the district to bring nutrition to students who need school for their nutritional needs.


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