By Rep. Mike Sanders
Normally, this time of year, I’m writing my traditional welcome back to school column – wishing all the students good luck in their classes and activities for the coming year; congratulating parents on surviving the summer and getting back to a more normal routine; wishing teachers, staff and school administrators a terrific start to the school year.
Scratch the record. It’s a whole new ballgame this year because of COVID-19.
While many school districts, particularly those in rural areas, are planning to start in-person this year, some are choosing either blended learning or fully virtual models.
Daniel Ingram, superintendent of Canton Schools said his district is starting in person Aug. 13 but has an option for home-based learning for parents concerned about sending their children back to school. Many other districts have similar plans and will have distance-learning plans in place for those students that will have to quarantine either because they have the virus or have been exposed to someone that has.
Many districts also have full virtual models available for those families that choose that option. Many require applications for this option, however, as well as meetings with district administrators, and they require at least a semester-long commitment if not for the entire academic year. Some allow virtual students to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics, but others do not.
Mr. Ingram said most of his students and parents as well as teachers are excited and ready to get started with a new school year. There are always those who are apprehensive, he said, and that is OK. For those, his district and others have many options and reassurances.
Most schools holding traditional classes have a number of new protocols this year designed to keep students and educators safe. Some districts are requiring masks be worn in buildings and on buses. Others are strongly recommending masks, especially during times when students will be together in large groups. Many teachers are working to spread out desks in classrooms. Cafeteria times will be staggered in many districts. Bus drivers will be asked to keep students as spaced as possible. Many districts are encouraging parents to transport their children to and from school.
Many districts will be taking students’ temperatures before they board buses or enter buildings. Hennessey Public Schools says online that it has installed multiple thermal imaging cameras that will take students temperatures throughout the day. They’ve also purchased mobile hand sanitizer stations.
Most districts have detailed sanitation practices spelled out online. This includes shutting down water fountains, cleaning desktops and other surfaces regularly throughout the day, limiting the number of students in the restroom at one time. Some districts are moving to virtual Friday models, where students will learn from home on Fridays giving the schools time to deep clean each week.
I’m sure most parents are well aware of their schools’ policies for the upcoming school year, but for those that have not yet checked, please do so soon.
No matter what your concerns for the new school year, I hope parents, students and educators can at least look forward to all a newschool year brings – the opportunity to learn new things and advance, the chance to make new friends and reconnect with the old, the chance to show your knowledge and participate in activities in which you excel, and so much more. Please enjoy this school year.
In the meantime, if I can help you with anything, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be reached atMike.Sanders@OKHouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.