March 29 Letter to Parents

March 29, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

As your children’s superintendent of schools, I’m writing to provide an update regarding Owasso Public Schools and the COVID-19 pandemic. This message may sound more like it is coming from a mom rather than a superintendent. The reason for that is, as I prepared to create this message, my thinking was: “If I were an Owasso parent, what would I want to know right now?” With that in mind, this message is going to be more in grocery list form than letter form. 

Before I begin, I want to thank our staff in the district. There is too much gratitude and too many specific “givers” and “doers” to list them all. What I can, without reservation, tell you is the staff of our district care deeply about your children, you as families, and our community. 

It feels “wonky” to not be connecting face-to-face, for concerts and ballgames to stop, for school doors to be closed, for churches to not meet, and for businesses to be working in whole new ways. What is amazing are the resourceful ways that people have adapted to overcome! Social media is full of connections and ways for people to make the best of an incredibly challenging time. 

My hope with this message is to provide each of you some assurance through concrete information. No, this method of “doing school” is not ideal, but it can be really good! We are partnering with you as parents - your child’s first teachers - to have school in a way that is doable. Our goal in all of our district planning for instruction is to remind our community’s children that learning truly matters. 

What makes part of this feel so “wonky” is that we, as grown ups, are having to learn in front of our children and other adults. I’m learning how to work in new ways - figuring out tools and methods that six weeks ago I didn’t need. Our teaching and learning leaders, principals and teachers are all meeting on-line in virtual meetings to make things good for our students and they are all learning new methods of preparing for school. You, as parents, may have to learn and fumble through some of this along with your children. I assure you, our students - your children - are worth every drop of effort invested in them!

For you, as parents, there is a great deal of “together” time likely happening at your home. As a mom, that would mean going through tons of groceries, likely a little too much overlap in each other’s space, and an enormous need for more patience and grace with each other. But it would also mean some new ways to connect and slow down a bit when just six months ago we were likely saying, “I’d give anything for a few days at home with nothing on the calendar!”

So, here is the “grocery list” of items I believe may be of interest to our parents and families.

  • Distance learning will begin on April 6th. 
    • Dr. Margaret Coates will be sharing a letter with parents, just like you got this one, with specific details related to your student’s learning.
    • All lessons will be posted on our district website which will be accessible through a cell phone (smartphone) or any other digital device that can get access to the internet.
    • Lessons will be posted a week at a time (example: Week 1 - April 6 to 10).
    • Lessons will be posted by grade level and subject area (example: 3rd Grade - Math or 6th Grade - Social Studies).
    • Individual teachers will help the students on their class rosters and the parents of those students with any questions related to assignments. While it likely will be a quicker response during the day, we expect teachers to respond to questions within 24 hours. However, we do ask that students/parents not expect a response over the weekend.
    • Individual teachers will work with their students to answer any specific questions for their grade level, subject area, or course.
    • We know that many parents and guardians are still working their full-time jobs or may have multiple children in their homes. Therefore, the lessons can be completed over the course of the week and will not require a full day of instruction like your students experience when they attend school.

  • Attendance will not be taken each day because students can be learning from anywhere.

  • Parents will not need to purchase supplies or materials to complete assignments as we know staying in your homes and social distancing is the priority now. We are also mindful that many families have been affected by the economic challenges this window of time has created.

  • Assignments/projects will not physically be submitted to teachers. There will be no exchange of papers, assignments mailed or delivered, projects delivered to the school, etc.

  • Grades cannot go down during April and May. We do not want students to be negatively affected by this interruption in the traditional school year.
    • Learning will always be more important than grades and this is a window of time for us to demonstrate that together for your children.
    • Teachers will have the flexibility to work with students to address any grades this semester and the work surrounding them.
    • Teachers have incredible skills in teaching and fostering learning amid the students they serve and will know how to guide their students regarding grades.

  • Final semester grades will still be recorded for your students.
    • This is especially important for our students who receive high school credit.
      • We don’t want any high school student to be hindered due to this closure.
      • We want every graduating senior to have maximum opportunities for their world after high school.
      • We know colleges and post-secondary institutions (military, employers, technology centers, etc.) are all adapting their practices, as well.

  • We have not finalized the last day of school. 
    • The reason for this is that we are still trying to determine any unintended consequences for our students. We want to create every window of opportunity for future success that we can, especially our graduating high school seniors.
    • The last day of school for students will be no later than May 15th. 
    • You can feel free as families to plan anything for after May 15th and be safe that you will not have a conflict with the Owasso Public Schools calendar for students.

  • Meals will continue to be available for our students through the end of the school year.
    • Lunch is served between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. each day (Monday through Friday) at Owasso High School.
    • Meals are available for all students in our district in a drive-through style setting.
    • The meal for each student includes lunch for the day and breakfast for the next morning.
    • These meals are complimentary, and there is no charge to the students’ family.

  • Pre-K enrollment for the 2020-21 school year has been delayed because our previous processes required parents to gather in larger groups than are acceptable right now.
    • We are reorganizing the PreK enrollment process and hope to have that process finalized by mid-April or sooner.
    • When details are finalized for PreK Enrollment, we will share that information through our website, SchoolMessenger, social media, and local news outlets.

  • All activities and athletic events are cancelled during this time that school is closed.

  • A priority for families and our district is Owasso High School graduation. This is such a milestone event for seniors and those that have invested in their education.
    • Originally, our OHS graduation was scheduled for May 19th at 7:00 p.m. at the Mabee Center in Tulsa.
    • We are realistic, due to current conditions and the cancellation of all activities for the spring semester, that graduation as we know it will likely not be possible.
    • Our district is committed to honoring our high school seniors in the most substantial way possible, even if that has to transition to virtual activities.
    • To say the particulars related to graduation are ironed out would simply be untrue. However, we are gathering ideas on the best ways to honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 and it is a daily priority in our planning mindset.

  • We are aware that students, staff, teachers, and others have items in our school buildings and places of work that they would like to have at home. 
    • Right now, safety and health are the priority for all our students and staff.
    • Teachers are not being allowed to return to school buildings at this time due to possible health concerns. I honor our teachers for their innovation and hard work to prepare lessons. They are using their greatest resource - themselves - which doesn’t require getting into any building to use!
    • In the days ahead and when the time is best, we will devise systematic ways to distribute items to students and parents. 
    • We will also devise systematic ways for you to return items (textbooks, school-issued materials, etc.) that you have at home which belong to the district.

  • Your student’s principal is participating in many virtual meetings to stay up-to-date regarding safety issues, health items, instructional plans at their school, support of teachers and staff, and even more. If you are unsure where you start if you have a question, please reach out by email to the school principal and they will direct you to the appropriate source of information or answer the question for you.

I encourage every parent or guardian reading this information to please know that your Owasso Public Schools team is here for you and your children. This is a unique time that we have never experienced before as parents, as school teams, or as a community. 

This window of time learning from home for our students will, at times, be challenging, messy, uncomfortable … the list can go on and on. However, our teachers understand this and are working hard to create lessons with those difficulties in mind. We have gifted, caring, phenomenal teachers in Owasso Public Schools and they - not the school building - have always been the source of truly great teaching and learning!

In the days ahead, you’ll continue great partnerships with your children’s teachers and principals. I commit to keep in touch with updated information from the district level. Information is empowering as I receive it and want you to feel the same way.

Parents and guardians, please take care of yourselves. We look forward to the day soon when school looks a bit more like it did before Spring Break. Until then, we’re here for you and I’m so proud to be an Owasso Ram serving our students!

Amy Fichtner, Ed.D.