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Norman Public Schools announced protocol for handling positive COVID-19 cases, accommodations for teachers and a system for determining when to keep schools open in a lengthy letter from the superintendent Tuesday.

In his semi-regular newsletters to district employees and parents, Superintendent Nick Migliorino addressed several of the biggest questions still looming over the district’s back-to-school plan.

While NPS announced the framework for its back to school plan on July 14, district administrators have worked through several major details. The district is still set to return to instruction Aug. 17 with multiple learning options for students and families.

The letter details essential points about teachers’ virtual responsibilities, accommodations for teachers with medical conditions and a system for determining when Norman schools would go fully virtual this fall.

Notably, the district will prioritize teachers for online-only instruction if they have a documented or protected medical condition.

School closure guidelines

Norman will follow state guidance on when to bring students back in person and when to move to virtual instruction, Migliorino announced Tuesday.

At a meeting last Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education recommended districts follow a color-coded system based on the State Department of Health’s COVID alert system. It assigns each Oklahoma county a color from green to red based on its per-capita COVID cases; the board’s recommendation assigns specific district actions to each of those colors.

In Norman, students will still have in-person, virtual and blended-learning options with face coverings required if Cleveland County is at a green or yellow alert level. The county, like most in the state, is currently at yellow.

If the county’s status moves to the first level of orange, NPS will still offer all three learning options, but students learning in person will be moved to an alternative schedule. 

If Cleveland County moves to the second level of orange or to red, NPS will make instruction entirely virtual.

Teaching expectations

The district’s guidance specifies that during the first week of school, teachers should focus on connecting and building relationships with all of their students.

The beginning of the school year also will be a time to make sure students and parents understand how to use Canvas and Seesaw, the learning management systems teachers use to host content and grades during any possible virtual learning.

The letter also notes that teachers aren’t required to livestream their classes for students learning virtually, but that live video activities and discussions are possible. Should the district hold virtual learning days, teachers must still report to their school and classroom.

Online teaching

The district’s announcement notes that NPS’ personnel office will prioritize a fully-online teaching option for teachers with high-risk or ADA-protected health conditions.

Teachers with medical conditions and other concerns about returning to school in person can contact NPS’ personnel office by July 31, according to Migliorino’s letter. Employees who live with someone at risk or have other concerns about teaching may have leave options, according to the district.

For those employees, the district pointed to Family and Medical Leave Act time or an Extended Period of Time Leave of Absence, both of which require medical documentation. Migliorino’s announcement said that retirement and resignation also are also options for anyone who doesn’t qualify for leave or fully online teaching.

"While we hope that premature retirement or resignation is not the best option for our employees, we certainly understand these are uncertain and anxious times, and employees are considering all options for themselves and their families,” the announcement reads.

Positive tests

District announcements to teachers and parents also detailed NPS’ protocol for handling positive COVID-19 tests among students and teachers this fall.

Should a student or teacher test positive, the teacher or students in their classroom will quarantine for 14 days, during which students will learn virtually. In elementary school, this means that if one person in a class tests positive, the whole class and the teacher will quarantine. In high school, however, the plan means that if one person tests positive, any student or teacher in any class that person is taking or teaching must quarantine.

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they can come back to school in person 10 days after their symptoms appeared. If an individual is exposed to a person with COVID-19, the district says the person must quarantine for 14 days.

The district’s “Return to Work Flowchart,” released Tuesday, provides more details for employees about how to handle certain situations that might require quarantine.

If teachers have to quarantine or get sick, the district is directing them toward federally-provided

Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave, which provides two weeks of leave for employees dealing with the impacts of COVID. District administrators previously have emphasized that NPS will not penalize students who miss classes or assignments because they are sick or quarantining.

“I will be super clear right now: We are not going to penalize any student or any family because they are sick,” said Holly Nevels, associate superintendent and chief human resources officer at NPS, at a July 14 school board meeting. “If they believe that they may be infected with COVID, they’re having to quarantine, they’re hospitalized, they cannot access our learning, we’re not going to let that be a barrier for our students this year. Absolutely not.”

Full details of NPS' plan, along with more answers about schedules, students with special needs and teacher responsibilities are available at normanpublicschools.org/backtoschool.

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