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Robert Morris
Robert Morris

BACK TO SCHOOL: Looking for a Safe Return to the Classroom

Aug 03, 2020

Life in the middle of a pandemic is presenting new challenges each and every day. Nowhere is the problem of adjusting to the reality of COVID-19 more daunting than for administrators, teachers, staff, students, and parents in the Moore Public School (MPS) district. David Peak, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education and Instruction, and Michelle McNear, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education and Instruction, are helping lead the charge for the district's "Return to Learn" plan. Both want to make sure that everyone in the district understands that there are no perfect solutions to resuming education in the current situation.


"There is so much about our situation that is constantly changing," said Peak. "We've had tremendous support for our plan, but one of the criticisms is that it doesn't go deep enough. The reason for that is that we're still waiting on specific guidance. There's more information coming from the CDC and more data coming from the state that we don't have clarity on yet. That means the situation is going to be dynamic and fluid."


McNear said that the dynamic and constant-change is challenging for MPS administrators as they work to create a plan for the 2020-2021 school year. She wants everyone to know that for this reason, the MPS team is committed to transparency at every step of the process.


"We've been very open with our community about this document being fluid as we receive more information," said McNear. "I also think it's crucial for people to understand that in addition to the constantly changing data, we have to deal with the fact that every one of our schools is different. There have different builds and different layouts. So, that's where we've kind of gone back to our principals who will have a lot of input into what specifically works for those individual sites."


(There is a tremendous amount of data in the district's "Return to Learn" plan. This plan is subject to change…and will almost certainly change. That means you'll want to stay updated by visiting and clicking on the red "plus" button near the top of the page.)


Here are the essential elements of the plan as of the Moore Monthly's print deadline for August:


  • The school calendar will remain the same for the 2020-2021 year.
  • All students will report to school on Thursday, August 13.
  • The district will offer three learning options for students:



Traditional Classroom Setting

Learning Management System: Canvas

All students are automatically enrolled in Option 1.

  • Remain an MPS student
  • In-person learning, conversations, and engagement
  • Social interaction with peers and staff for preparation of living in a connected world
  • Immediate access to libraries and materials
  • Canvas connects all teachers, students, and parents for seamless learning transitions, even during short-term routine absences.
  • 24-7 online access to submitted and/or graded assignments
  • Technology and Internet provided, as needed. Certain conditions must be met. Contact your school principal with technology and/or Internet needs.
  • Participate in school-sponsored athletic and fine arts programs (NCAA compliant)




Distance Learning

Learning Management System: Canvas

Students are enrolled in Option 2 for intermittent health

concerns lasting approximately 2-4 weeks. Contact your school principal for more information.

  • Remain an MPS student
  • The same learning management system is used for "Distance Learning" and "Traditional Classroom Setting" for easy transition if needed for intermittent health concerns.
  • Canvas connects all teachers, students, and parents for seamless learning transitions
  • 24-7 online access to submitted and/or graded assignments
  • Technology and Internet provided, as needed. Certain conditions must be met. Contact your school principal with technology and/or Internet needs.
  • Participate in school-sponsored athletic and fine arts programs (NCAA compliant)



Virtual/Online Education

Learning Management System: Canvas (Grades PreK-2) & Odysseyware (Grades 3-12)

To enroll in Virtual/Online Education, contact the MPS Virtual Education dept. at

(405) 735-4640, on or by Friday, July 31, 2020.

  • Remain an MPS student
  • Virtual/Online Education is a 9-week commitment for students in Grades PreK-2 and a semester commitment for students in Grades 3-12
  • Flexible schedule, individualized plan, and accessible anywhere
  • 24-7 online access to submitted and/or graded assignments
  • Supervised by MPS certified teachers (Virtual Academy staff)
  • Communication between a virtual teacher and parent, with regular updates provided
  • Technology and Internet provided, as needed. Certain conditions must be met. Contact your school principal with technology and/or Internet needs.
  • APPLIES TO SECONDARY STUDENTS ONLY: Participate in school-sponsored athletic and fine arts
  • programs, as long as a student is enrolled in one hour during regularly scheduled school days and physically on campus during that class period. This is not NCAA compliant. Additionally, this option does not
  • support Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Note: Students may continue to take supplemental courses while in Option 1 or 2.



Peak said the MPS administrative team has been hard at work on this plan for months and want to make sure that everyone understands that this will be significantly different than the plan schools operated on to finish up the 2019-2020 school year.


"This is a completely different challenge than what we were looking at in the spring," said Peak. "We were in the crosshairs back in March and having to make decisions at such a fast past in that circumstance. It's still been difficult to come up with a plan to make school happen for this coming year. Still, we've been working hard and collaborating with so many people to address the various challenges we face in executing a plan that meets everyone's needs."


The amount of data and information being processed by school officials is enormous, said McNear. In addition to the constant flow of information from sources like the Centers for Disease Control, the Oklahoma State Health Department, and other school districts, McNear said the MPS team was determined to hear from the districts' stakeholders.


 "Administration, leadership, teachers, support staff, kids, parents," said McNear "For me, making sure that everyone's opinions were heard was critical. And then doing it to what we really felt like was best for our kids, because the bottom line that's what we're here for is our kids and our teachers. I think it's important to bring everybody to the table when you're going to make a big decision like this. You have to make sure you get it right for them".


In addition to a commitment to transparency, Peak and McNear say a commitment to the health and safety of everyone is the highest priority. With that in mind, the district has established the following health protocols for schoolday operations at the elementary and secondary levels:


(Again, there is a tremendous amount of information related to these protocols that we cannot include in this article. To see the entire plan, visit and click on the red "plus" button near the top of the page.)



It is important that all families and staff partner with us in monitoring health. We ask that students and staff take their temperature on a daily basis at home prior to coming to MPS facilities and events, and follow the self-screening checklist on page 10. No student or staff with a fever of 100.0 degrees or higher may enter any MPS facility. No fever-reducing medication may be taken to reduce fever.



If a student or staff member exhibits a fever of 100.0 degrees or greater while at school, they must

immediately be picked up from school or leave (if they are a driver). They cannot return to school until they are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.



MPS will make every effort to promote healthy practices and protocols. Social distancing will be

implemented when possible. Mask requirements may change due to the COVID-19 health climate, local, state, and/or federal requirements.


Grades 7-12: Masks and face coverings will be required for students and staff due to larger classes and greater student mobility during passing periods and lunches.


Grades PreK-6: Masks and face coverings are recommended for students and staff. This is due to appropriate developmental level of elementary students. All MPS families are encouraged to have a mask and/or face covering available for their child(ren) in case a requirement for school is enacted.


Note: Teachers will work to encourage that students follow their parent' s/guardian's wishes to wear a mask or face covering, though it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to follow their parent' s/guardian's directive. This is subject to change if we receive other directives from the Oklahoma State Department of Education or other state authorities.


Mask and face coverings are not always best for the health of our students with medical concerns. Their parents/guardians must contact your school nurse to receive an exemption.

All MPS staff will be provided face coverings and/or face shields.

Face coverings and masks must not include messages or images that distract from the learning environment as outlined for other articles of clothing in school dress code policies.



MPS transports approximately 12,000 students daily. The district intends to continue traditional busing services for existing routes. Due to the large number of students that rely on transportation provided by the district, social distancing will be challenging and may not be possible on all buses. Therefore, masks are required for all students while riding the bus due to close proximity. Mask and face coverings are not always best for the health of our students with medical concerns. Their parents/guardians must contact your school nurse to receive an exemption. Transportation vehicles will be frequently cleaned and disinfected daily. When possible, windows will be down for air circulation, as recommended by the CDC and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Parents need to take these factors into consideration when deciding if school or personal transportation is best for their child. Also, plan for longer drop-off/ pick-up lines. If there is a shortage of bus drivers, due to COVID-19, the district may need to alter and/or temporarily suspend bus routes.



MPS Curriculum Coordinators and Teachers worked throughout the summer to revise yearly curriculum pacing guides to include academic standards that were not taught last spring due to COVID-19. Students will have the opportunity to master any missed standards throughout the 2020-2021 school year.




It is imperative for the health and safety of all students to learn remotely on days they have a fever or other symptoms of illness. Students who have a health reason that is verified by a parent/guardian or medical professional will receive an excused absence.



Classroom desks and common seating areas (including tables) will be arranged to maximize space between students.



Peak and McNear want to make sure that everyone is aware that the biggest concern for everyone involved in the planning process for the new school year is safety.



"We've been careful to show that we do care about safety for everyone as our primary concern," said McNear. "That's one of the reasons we're offering three different options for students and for all the safety protocols. We understand that it can be a tough call for parents on whether or not to come back for traditional school. We want people to make the best decision for them."



"No two people view the situation in the same way," said Peak. "Families are all in different places when it comes to their home situation. Some families are multigenerational and have older people living in their household that they don't want to risk exposure to. Other families have a lack of resources or other issues that it's essential for their kids to be able to go to a classroom and have a hot breakfast and lunch provided. There is no one-size-fits-all option on the table. But we can do everything we can to make it as safe as possible."



When it comes to safety in a pandemic setting, nobody understands the challenges better than Dr. Doug Drevets, Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. While Dr. Drevets' isn't directly involved with back-to-school efforts, he said he appreciates the challenges faced by everyone involved in the education environment as they look to return to school in the fall.




"I think you have to remember that in this world, with COVID, nothing is ever truly 'safe,' or is ever going to be safe," said Dr. Drevets. "You have to think about it as low-risk vs. high-risk and what you can do at schools to make things low-risk."


Dr. Drevets recommends said distance learning is certainly something that should be considered by parents and is glad to see school districts like Moore offering that as an option.



"For those who are capable of doing distance education, it would be reasonable to let them do that," said Dr. Drevets. "That just decreases the numbers of students you have in school that you have to deal with. I realize that not everybody can do that, but if some can, that would be a win for them."


The social distancing options, hand sanitization, and extra precautions during mealtimes are also important, according to Dr. Drevets. One other thing he strongly suggests is that parents pay special attention to this fall's flu vaccine and make sure their children are vaccinated.



"We will have influenza this fall, and it's just one infection you don't need to worry about so much if you just get the kids vaccinated," said Dr. Drevets. "If you have an outbreak of influenza, you won't know that it's influenza until you test everybody, and it would just eliminate so many headaches if you would have a high uptake of flu vaccine coverage for the school children."



The health of students, teachers, and staff is at the top of the list for MPS administrators as they continue to adapt their Return to Learn plan. A quick glance at Facebook or Twitter is all you need to see the challenges faced by the team. Peak and McNear said they understand that no matter what plan or options they come up with, it won't cover all the changing possibilities. And for that reason, there will always be second-guessing or questions from the public. They just want people to understand that the motivation for everything they do is the Moore Public School students.


"We truly love kids," said McNear. "We love our teachers. We love our community. And I think that's just, I mean, what I would want people to know."


"Every single person I have visited with by phone or email in response to our plan has been positive about what we're trying to do," said Peak. "Folks are legitimately struggling to figure out what is best for their child, and we've been happy to give as much personalized attention as we can. We do that because, as Michelle said, we truly love our kids, our teachers, our staff, and our community.

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