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Back to School Update
Back to School Update
Russell Holden
Friday, July 17, 2020

7/17/20

Oakwood ISD Students and Parents,

The last few weeks we have seen an explosion in the number of Coronavirus cases all over the country, including our local area.  This has caused quite a big shift in many schools plans to reopen in the coming weeks. Last week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released some initial guidelines that Superintendents and school officials have been eagerly anticipating to help plan for the start of the school year. Under these initial guidelines, parents will have the opportunity to choose whether or not to send their child to school for in-person learning or to have their children take their classes online.  Over the past week (including just minutes ago), we have seen many additional changes come from TEA, Governor Abbott, and in some areas, the local health department.  With that being said, our own plans may change at any moment given the guidance we receive.  Please be understanding with us and know that we are working with a set of conditions that are always changing, so we are doing our best to navigate the overwhelming amount of information that we are receiving and trying to decide what is best for the students at Oakwood.

Oakwood ISD is committed to providing a quality education to its students.  We feel that the best way for that to happen is to have the students in class with the teachers, in a traditional classroom setting.  The bottom line is that we miss our kids and want them back up here to continue to learn and grow.  However, the absolute highest priority is for the safety of both students and staff members, and that will always be the driving factor in any decisions that are made for our school district.  At the current time Oakwood ISD is scheduled to start school on Tuesday, August 11, a little over three weeks from today.  Our goal is to try to have “traditional” school with the necessary safety precautions taken to mitigate any risk of spreading this virus. 

Oakwood has secured several thousand masks (both disposable and reusable), gloves, gallons and gallons of hand sanitizer, more than 25 digital thermometers, face shields, signs directing the control of traffic, and have modified our master schedule to better control student movement and class sizes.  We are literally trying to think of every possible way to provide as safe an environment and mitigate the risks for our kids and staff members to be at school.  In addition to these measures, Oakwood ISD has contracted with GermBlast, a company that specializes in cleaning and disinfecting schools.  We are scheduled to have them on campus multiple times throughout the year to completely clean and sanitize all school buildings, the cafeteria, locker rooms, and even the school buses. We have also ordered a daily use spray disinfectant that the cleaning staff will use to clean the classrooms and common areas as an added layer of protection.

A comprehensive and detailed safety plan guide to reopening the school is still being worked on, but I anticipate that it will be ready to release early next week.  Here are a few of the major points to consider:

  • School will start on Tuesday, August 11 as scheduled, with our modified 4-day instructional calendar in place.  Please see attached calendar.
  • The shift to remote instruction is possible at any time given the changing circumstances and many schools have already made the decision to start the first 3 or 4 weeks with online teaching.  We have not made that decision yet, but it is something that we think parents should be prepared for.
  • If we do go to online learning, parents will need to have internet access and a computer or device for students to utilize.  According to our survey results, around 80% of our parents indicated that they had a reliable internet connection, but we do know that there are many students who do not.  We are in the process of ordering many wifi hotspots for students who do not have internet access.  If we do go to remote instruction and you need a hotspot for internet access, the school should be able to provide that to a limited number of students. There may be some small costs associated with this, we will know more in the coming weeks.
  • Oakwood ISD is in the process of securing additional chromebooks and laptops in addition to the stock that we currently have.  Currently, we have over 100 devices that we can mobilize for student use.  If any student needs a device for remote instruction, the school should be in a position to supply one.
  • If a parent/student chooses to go to online learning, they will remain in the online learning environment until the end of the 3 weeks/6 week grading cycle.  At that time, a student may transition back to in-person learning.
  • Please remember that all students, regardless of the learning option chosen, must be registered before the start of the school year.  Please call/email Dr. Stephanie Johnson (sjohnson@oakwoodisd.net)  if you have any questions with the registration process.
  • Some CTE (Career and Technical Education) classes may require hands on, in-person instruction due to the nature of that class.  Athletics will also require in person instruction due to the nature of team sports.  While students enrolled in online coursework will be eligible according to UIL rules, Oakwood coaches will have requirements for in-person time for practice and competitions.  Please be aware that all extracurricular activities are governed by UIL guidelines and we have not received formal instructions on how they plan to proceed during the current school year.
  • In the event that we do go to online instruction, it will be much more robust than what was offered last spring.  TEA is currently working to finalize a fully realized online curriculum and Learning Management System for teachers and students to use.  We are still awaiting work on what that will look like, but it will be much more comprehensive that anything that was available last year.  It is important to note that all students will be graded under the current (unmodified) OISD grading policy.  In addition, online students are expected to fully participate each day in all scheduled classes and submit classwork regularly as a part of their curriculum.  All state attendance requirements are in effect and students will be held accountable to these mandatory requirements.
  • Oakwood ISD is not currently mandating that students wear masks, but Governor Greg Abbott is.  Currently, there is an Executive Order that requires all people, age 10 and up, to wear a face covering or mask.  Schools are expected to fully comply with this directive.  As long as that order is in place, Oakwood will require students to comply with that order by requiring masks.  Students below that age of 10 are recommended to wear masks, not required.  Although we do have quite a few masks available, we still ask that parents supply the masks as much as possible and we can supplement where needed.
  • For safety reasons, water fountains will not be in use for this semester.  Please consider sending a water bottle with your child’s name written on it each day.

Each and every day seems to bring new challenges, changes to previous guidance, additional requirements, and new information to process. The faculty and staff of Oakwood ISD are working diligently to prepare a safe educational environment amidst this dynamic situation.  Please be in prayer for our school, the students, and the staff as we continue to make decisions and try to find a way to safely serve the needs of our children.

In service,

Russell Holden

Oakwood ISD Superintendent