Avant Public Schools pushes back start date to Sept. 8

Photo caption: Avant High School. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

Another Osage County school district is adjusting its back to school calendar due to local COVID-19 cases.

On Aug. 11, the board of education for Avant Public Schools voted unanimously to delay the start of school from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases within the dependent district’s attendance area.

“The day we approved the calendar, we had zero cases in Avant,” Superintendent Mindy Englett said. “The following Monday, they went up. There are some cases that are being reported in Skiatook, but they’re in Avant’s district.”

At the time of the meeting, there were five district staffers with scheduled COVID-19 tests, including at least one essential employee.  

The additional time will also allow teachers enough time to walk parents and students through Avant’s distance learning platform in advance of the coming school year. That walk-through was originally tentatively slated for the week of Aug. 11 but had to be canceled due to the number of employees in quarantine.

“We need to be thinking about the safety of our kids and the safety of our teachers and our staff,” board member Evelyn Alsup said. “This is not supposed to be about what’s good for us on here. This is supposed to be what’s good for the entire district. We need to be thinking about when these people were exposed and when that 14-day window is up.

“We cannot in good conscience bring a bunch of people into the school if we know we have people who are positive for the virus. Otherwise, they’ll all be infected.”

The new calendar, which will be revisited at the board’s Sept. 2 meeting, has enough time built in to exceed the state’s minimum requirements and will not extend the school year, even if there are inclement weather days. The district will still use a four-day week with eight hours of instruction, regardless of whether Avant has to transition to all distance learning.

“We’re just going to have to roll with things and be ready to pivot,” Englett said. “We’ll get through it, because we’ve gotten through 550 things before and lots of things before that.”