District making Wednesdays remote learning days
By Jeff Harrison
Mid-Del Schools is making another adjustment to its schedule.
The school board voted Monday to continue the alternating A/B schedule through Oct. 20 and to make Wednesday a remote learning day for students.
Superintendent Rick Cobb recommended continuing with the A/B schedule based on levels of COVID-19 in Oklahoma County, while also modifying the schedule to provide more time for teachers to work on lesson plans and curriculum for online and in-person instruction. He emphasized his desire to return to a traditional five-day schedule, but says it’s not in the best interest of students, faculty and families.
“I feel like it’s important to state this publicly every time I have the chance – I believe the best learning environment for our students is five days a week of face-to-face instruction,” Cobb said at Monday’s meeting. “Unfortunately, Oklahoma County has remained in the Orange Category on the Oklahoma State Department of Health COVID-19 Alert System map for nine of the last 10 weeks. Statewide and countywide, infection rates are still climbing.”
Parents, teachers and staff have expressed concerns and support for the district’s response to COVID-19 and the A/B schedule. Cobb read excerpts from emails he received from parents and teachers, showing the range of opinions.
“There is no consensus on this,” he said. “Be wary of anyone who says they speak for all the teachers or for all the parents. My message to those who reached out to me and to the board is that we hear you. We just also hear the people who think a different path is right.”
Board member LeRoy Porter said the district staff is doing their best to navigate through this challenging year and asked for patience.
“We’re taking practices and things we can find to try and make this the best year we can,” he said.
Jimmie Nolen, board member, echoed Porter’s comments, saying this has been the hardest year for the district since she joined the board 20 years ago.
“There are no good answers. There are no right answers. There are some right answers for this group or some right answers for that group. We need to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have right now, and that is what we’ve been trying to do the entire time,” she said.
At a Sept. 14 school board meeting, several teachers and parents spoke out against the current A/B schedule and asked the district to make Wednesday a remote learning day to give teachers more time to plan for classes and learn how to the use the online learning software Canvas.
Sarah Small, a teacher at Carl Albert High School and Mid-Del parent, said the A/B schedule has provided a safe learning environment and allowed for more one-on-one instruction with students, but also increased her workload with new requirements for online lessons.
“It takes time and it’s time that I don’t always have,” she said. “Keeping up with virtual and in person is exhausting. I feel like I’m doing twice the work but getting half as much accomplished each week.”
Peggy Bryant, a teacher at Carl Albert High School, said she now spends hours every night learning how to use the Canvas program and other online tools.
“I have no doubt that I will not die of COVID-19, because Canvas is going to kill me,” she said.
Tegan Malone, a teacher at Del City Middle School, expressed concerns about safety issues with COVID-19 and lack of support from administrators and the public, as she tearfully read her resignation letter to the board.
“I have employment and should be grateful for that, but at what cost to me,” she said.
Cobb later gave a presentation on the district’s Return-to-Learn plan and why he believes they should continue the A/B schedule. He also said the district would consider requests to make Wednesday a remote learning day.
Mid-Del Schools planned to start the year with five-day in-person instruction when it announced its Return-to-Learn plan in July. District officials modified the plan due to the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma County and recommendations from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
The district plan includes different safety protocols based on the infection levels within Oklahoma County and reported by the State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Alert System map. The State tracks the number of new cases of the virus per 100,000 residents each week using a color-coded system.
Oklahoma County has remained in the moderate risk or orange level with more than 14.39 new cases per day for much of the past few months. Mid-Del started the school year Aug. 24 with the A/B schedule.
On Monday, Cobb requested that the district continue on the A/B plan until Oct. 30 and make Wednesday a remote learning day, beginning Sept. 28. The board unanimously approved the changes 5-0 at the special board meeting.
If Oklahoma County moves to yellow or low risk and stays there for three consecutive weeks, the district may move from the alternating A/B schedule back to the traditional in-person five days a week calendar.