After seeing their school year abruptly end with no warning just before spring break, schools in Bryan County, along with others across Oklahoma, returned to learning last week – or at least the closest thing to it possible right now.
With a health emergency declared for all 77 counties by Governor Kevin Stitt, the Department of Education instituted distance learning statewide that began April 6 and will continue through the final day of the 2019-2020 school year on May 8.
The U.S. Department of Education approved waivers requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hoffmeister allowing schools to move existing funds to help schools pay for COVID-19 matters and distance learning including technology.
Distance learning was left up to each independent school district. Durant Public Schools Superintendent Duane Meredith had a large team of personnel working on the remote aspect after schools were shut down.
“We probably had over 100 people that were part of the process of this in various aspects and we feel good about the plan they came up with,” Meredith stated.
“Every district has a plan, and some different plans, but I feel this is what best meets the needs of our students. It will allow them to refresh and maintain what they have learned this year as well as the enrichment component if they so choose to do that at every grade level. I feel like it was just a tremendous job by our team.”
Durant’s remote learning plan includes a dashboard on the school’s website, durantisd.org, with many assignments and enrichment activities.
On the site there are links for each grade level with assignments that students can print and work on, or some that can be done online.
For those that may not have internet access, lesson packets were made available for pick up by parents or students at school sites or at meal drop-off locations.
New packets will be available each Monday and the website dashboard will also be updated at the beginning of each week for parents or students to check for information.
“This situation was out of the kids’ control and out of our control. so it’s time to show some grace,” Meredith added. “We still want to maintain education level with these kids but show them grace in the process.
“If they are missing something that will help their grade, we are going to have to get creative. Teachers will be reaching out to their students throughout this process and working with them on different ways to do that. Student grades will not drop after face-to-face instruction ended. They can only increase and not decrease during this time.”
According to the Durant superintendent, the district was serving an average of 2,000 meals per day during the early portion of the process, which included breakfast and lunch for roughly 1,000 DISD students.
This week that process was transitioned to three meals served in bulk on Mondays and Wednesdays only, which will continue for the remainder of the school year through May 8.
Many senior students have been curious about the possibility of still having a graduation ceremony.
Meredith remains hopeful about being able to have a ceremony for those seniors at some point, even if that is sometime in the summer.
“It’s our hope and desire to have an in-person graduation ceremony, but that is all on hold for the time being,” stated Meredith. “We will make those decisions from CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations and the health authorities.
“Bless our seniors and my heart go out to them because they have lost so many things here at the end of their final year, but it’s my hope we still give that to them, but it’s still too early to make that call. We just want to delay that decision as long as possible.”