Osage County schools update their back-to-school plans amid pandemic

Osage County school districts are preparing to go back to school, with distance learning plans in place should COVID-19 numbers continue to creep upward.

Wynona Public Schools is the first area district to go back, with classes scheduled to start on Aug. 3. Families are asked to notify the district by July 30 of their preferred instruction method: in-person classes, blended learning with three hours on campus each week, or all online. District-issued laptops and hot spots will be available for students who pursue blended or online learning.

Wynona students are encouraged to wear masks and will receive a cloth mask from the school to help facilitate that. All staff and visitors will be required to wear a face cover -- either a mask or a clear plastic shield.

Shidler Public Schools is scheduled to start Aug. 5. Distance learning will be available upon request only and parents are asked to contact district administrators to make those individual arrangements. Face masks are encouraged for students and staff, but not required.

Multi-day remote learning packets will be distributed to all Shidler students early in the year. If the school has to close due to inclement weather or COVID-19, that packet becomes mandatory homework for all students.

As of July 24, Barnsdall is starting classes on Aug. 10. However, a school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 3 to consider delaying the start of classes by one week. If that change is approved, it would not extend the school calendar any later. Instead, the district would use eight Fridays as distance learning days.

In-person instruction is offered for all grades at Barnsdall, with an online option available for kindergarten and up, plus a blended option for secondary students.

According to the “Return to Learn” plan published on its website, if either of the district’s sites or the district as a whole has an in-person absenteeism rate of 35 percent or higher, it will go to all distance learning for at least two weeks.

Skiatook is still starting classes on Aug. 13 as previously approved by its board of education. An online-only option is available for students in kindergarten and up with the understanding that it will be a semester-long commitment.

According to the “Return to Learn” plan released by the district on July 27, it will be following the color-coded alert recommendations from the state school board. It will start the school year in the yellow phase, which means masks will be required for students and staff.

Avant will begin in-person and online classes on Aug. 19. Students who opt for in-person classes will not be allowed to enter the school until their temperature is checked at either the bus stop or an on-campus drop-off location. According to a plan approved July 23 by the district’s board of education, all school meals will be eaten in the classroom in order to keep student groupings as consistent as possible.

If the district has a student or teacher test positive, that person’s entire class is expected to quarantine for two weeks and go to distance learning. The district will go to all distance learning for at least two weeks if on-site attendance drops below 65 percent for any reason.

Hominy and Pawhuska Public Schools are both scheduled to start classes on Aug. 20. Both districts are also offering distance learning options.

Pawhuska Assistant Superintendent Beverly Moore said her district has a school board meeting scheduled for Aug. 10 that may yield some back to school policy changes. As of press time, the district is not requiring masks for students but has purchased enough for every student and staff member to have one, plus clear face shields for bus drivers.

“We don’t want anyone to get sick or die,” she said. “But at the same time, we know that there is a need for the kids to be in school.”

Hominy’s school board is scheduled to meet on Aug. 5.

In order to allow more time for cleaning supplies to arrive, Woodland Public Schools has pushed back the start of classes to Aug. 26. The delay also provides time for district officials to prepare additional backordered Chromebooks for student use if the district has to cancel in-person instruction.

Face coverings are not required for students and staff at Woodland, but strongly encouraged. Additionally, parents are asked to check their students’ temperatures every morning before sending them to school.

The consolidated district is offering a distance learning program for kindergarten and up that will be overseen by Woodland faculty. Enrollment is open through July 30 and families who choose that option are asked to make a semester-long commitment.