Education

Oklahoma City Public Schools transitions to distance learning for remainder of semester

After a week of all campuses back to in-person learning, Skiatook Public Schools is once again pivoting to distance learning.

Citing the number of students and staff in quarantine across the district, Skiatook Public Schools’ leadership made the announcement on Nov. 13 that all of its sites will go to distance learning for the week of Nov. 16 and return to in-person instruction on Nov. 30.

The district was already scheduled to be out for the week of Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving.

According to a letter sent to parents, 215 students and 36 staff members across Skiatook’s five schools are in quarantine due to close contact. Eighteen people associated with the district have tested positive for Covid-19.  

Meanwhile, after starting the year entirely in distance learning, the state’s two largest brick and mortar public school districts are taking divergent paths to serve their students while Covid-19 case numbers keep climbing across Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City Public Schools made the announcement on Nov. 13 that starting Nov. 16, it will not hold any more in-person classes for the rest of the fall 2020 semester. The decision came just days after the district finished bringing all of its students back to campuses for in-person instruction for two days per week.

As of Nov. 13, Oklahoma County has 5,429 active cases, or 67.3 estimated cases for every 100,000 residents.

“We were really excited to welcome back many of our kids across the district back,” OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a video message to families. “At the same time, we’ve been very vigilant to watch the data…and speak to advisers.”

The shift to distance learning includes all special education students who were receiving in-person instruction while the rest of the district was in distance learning.

Additionally, all district-sponsored indoor winter sports are shut down until further notice, including practices. With the playoffs starting on Nov. 13, football teams will be allowed to finish out their seasons.  

Under the recommendations adopted by the state school board in July, counties with 50 cases or more for every 100,000 residents are considered to be at red alert. At that point, school districts are advised to go to distance learning until the per capita case count falls below 25 for every 100,000 people.

However, the guidance also notes that those protocols are non-binding and can be set aside if the case numbers are substantially impacted by facilities that do not readily lend themselves to community spread.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Tulsa Public Schools confirmed via email that the district will proceed with bringing additional students back in person on Nov. 16.

First, second and third graders are scheduled to start in-person instruction that day, joining pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. Older elementary school students are still scheduled to come back in-person on Nov. 30, while secondary students will remain in distance learning until Jan. 4, 2021.

As of Nov. 13, Tulsa County has 3,551 active cases, or 52.5 estimated cases for every 100,000 residents, which, like Oklahoma County, would put it on red alert. Although a disproportionate number of the county’s active cases are outside of TPS’ attendance area, five ZIP codes within its boundaries are classified as “severe risk” by the Tulsa County Health Department.

 

[Editor's Note: This article was updated on Nov. 13, 2020, to include Skiatook Public Schools has also transitioned to distance learning.]