Our District

OHS Remote Learning Extension 11/14/2020

I am providing you an update on the status of in-school learning at Oakridge Public Schools.  I shared much of this in the Parent Webinar on Thursday but wanted to provide the essential information to everyone.  I encourage you to reference the embedded links to articles for more information and influential guidance from authoritative sources.

Public Health Mitigation and Leadership

As you know, we put our high school in a remote learning model for over a week due to a shortage of substitute teachers related to absences of quarantined or isolated staff.  Public schools have not been ordered to go to fully remote learning by our local health department nor by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  But, I anticipate modified guidance from them soon.  This is a public health crisis and Oakridge will follow their leadership as developing science informs public health policy.

Hybrid Learning Model and Safety

We are putting the safety and health of staff and students as a top priority while teaching and learning are happening.  We incorporated almost every ‘required’ and strongly recommended protocol from the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap into our Oakridge Back to School Plan which was a summer-long effort researching the appropriate learning models to implement this school year.  

Based on a semester commitment, we supported parents who desired fully online learning.  The Oakridge Online Learning Academy (OOLA) has approximately 25% of our students enrolled.  The other 75% of students come to school in our Hybrid Learning Model where half these students are in person and half are learning remotely on alternating days.  That means a maximum of ~37% of our students are in-person at one time versus ~75-80% at non-hybrid schools.  Oakridge classrooms that were normally 21 students in Kdg-1st grade now have 7-8 kids in them on average in our Hybrid model.  I’ll let you do the math for secondary classes that formerly had 28-32 kids.  The bottom line, our Hybrid Learning Model was purposefully chosen based on the research of the MI Safe Schools Roadmap allowing us to limit the spread of COVID-19, minimize quarantines/isolations, and respond to positive cases.  Non-Hybrid districts have gone fully remote at a higher rate than Hybrid schools.  We all knew this would happen. But, even Oakridge has had to go remote to accommodate circumstances at our high school.

Schools Are Not Super Spreaders – Our Community Needs School Open

As we look ahead, I am constantly monitoring our circumstances and advocating on our behalf to public officials.  Routine correspondence from staff and community keeps me grounded with understanding your feelings and concerns, albeit, views are diverse on all sides of the issue.  What I know is that schools are not “super spreaders“,  with a few exceptions.  Kids are safer in schools where there are structured learning activities and strong health protocols with appropriate mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.  The “super spreader” events are at social gatherings outside of schools where such protocols are not taken as seriously as schools.  

European countries that have a national mitigation strategy have placed priority on keeping schools open during the pandemic.  This strategy reduces the impact on ALICE homes that are prevalent in our community.  This term means “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed”.  These homes are above the Federal Poverty Level but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget.  Across Michigan, 43 percent of households are ALICE homes.  They struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, child care, food, technology, health care, and transportation.  Muskegon County has a 45% ALICE rate.  This calculation is not available by district but with Oakridge being eligible for universal (100% of kids) free meals along with our former ~70% eligibility for free/reduced price meals, it is safe to say that a majority of our homes in Oakridge are ALICE.  Closing our schools for these families would be devastating, especially in homes with elementary and middle school-age children.  But, if we cannot staff a building safely, we will go remote.  We have remote learning plans prepared for every building.  We will use them at the direction of public health or our inability to staff a building.

Stay Home if Symptoms or Quarantined, Learning Still Expected

With all that said, we strongly encourage staff and students with symptoms to stay home and notify us of your absence.  If a student or employee becomes a close contact, we will notify them if they occurred at school.  Close contacts that occur outside of school will have to rely on the Health Department.  The school will advise close contacts and positive cases of quarantine and isolation guidance from the CDC.  If a student is absent due to symptoms or quarantine, they will be an excused absence but their assignments will be expected to be completed, with reasonable exceptions.  Such assignments will be available via Schoology (grades 4-12) or Google Classroom (grades Kdg – 3).

Care for the Whole Child

I will continue to advocate for a sensible Public Health COVID-19 mitigation strategy that restricts places where transmission is taking place the most.  It must put children and schools at the forefront of this strategy.  I will quote this NPR article, “As a pediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children,” Dr. Danielle Dooley, a medical director at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR. She ticked off mental health problems, hunger, obesity due to inactivity, missing routine medical care, and the risk of child abuse — on top of the loss of education. “Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course.”  And as you know, we have our community partners to provide medical, dental, and mental health services among our own personnel who provide needed support and interventions.  We serve the whole child best when they are at school.

High School/FUSION Switching to Remote

I am announcing that Oakridge High School, including FUSION, will be learning remotely this week, November 16-20, due to the number of employees in isolation or quarantine and not having enough substitute teachers to operate in-person learning:

  1. High School CTC students will NOT continue to attend CTC in-person.  They have already been notified regarding their remote learning schedule.  
  2. Middle School students who have a class in the High School building will continue as normal. 
  3. High School office staff will report to work as normal.  
  4. High School paraprofessionals and cooks will report to work and may be reassigned to work in the district upon arrival.   
  5. Extracurricular activities will continue because the isolation and quarantine orders have not impacted these individuals.
  6. This announcement does not impact any student enrolled in OOLA in any grade K-12.     

Mr. McVoy will be issuing more correspondence but the schedule for HS/FUSION remote learning is available here.  I ask all other buildings and families to be prepared for remote learning should the need arise.  

If modification of Public Health strategies are announced, I will provide further communication.  I know more questions and answers will be needed.

Until then, take care!  I appreciate you and all you are doing.  

We’re in this together.

Tom Livezey

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