Open letter to NPS

administration, board

Editor, The Transcript:

As concerned parents of children in Norman Public Schools, we are writing to request that any draft of the school system's reopening guidelines be an evolving document dictated by our community's situation and scientific knowledge. These guidelines should be made public before the Norman Board of Education's likely vote next week.

Any plan under consideration must include detailed explanations of hybrid and full-time virtual options, including virtual instruction by Norman Public Schools' teachers. We want our children to be taught by our own highly-trained teachers, with our own curriculum, and we expect our teachers to have options to teach online. Our research indicates:

• ExpandEd currently offered by NPS is run by the for-profit company, Edgenuity, and it excludes our NPS teachers and uses a different curriculum;

• the teachers involved in ExpandEd are out-of-state contract workers;

• the instruction receives mixed reviews: it is asynchronous, meaning there is little teacher-student contact and learning.

Why would we want to outsource our children's learning during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis when we have fantastic teachers here in Norman?

Having virtual options taught by NPS teachers will give us the flexibility we need: it will retain students and funding in our district, while easing occupancy numbers for in-person classrooms and improving safety for our students, staff, and families. Without virtual NPS options, we are concerned that many teachers may leave for health and safety reasons, and families may choose Epic or surrounding districts which offer local virtual options.

Any reopening plan must include clear mitigation procedures and policies. We recognize that in-person school is vital for children: thus every effort should be taken to keep schools open, but that also means protecting the health of adults.

Moreover, middle- and high-school age children are at higher risk from Covid-19 complications than are elementary-age children. Although no plan can ensure 100% safety, guidelines from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics should inform district policy with modest site variability. In particular, we must have strict adherence to a no-illness policy. Absences should no longer require a doctor's note.

We need to be flexible with families and absences. Flexible paid sick leave must be available for all faculty and staff.

We urge that members of our community come together at this crucial time to ensure that our children, especially those most in need, receive nutrition, counseling support, and quality learning opportunities in-person and online, and that our school faculty and staff are protected and supported.

Please reach out to your school board member and district administrators in support of our teachers, staff, and students.

Sincerely,

JULIANNA E. L. KERSHEN, JANET WARD-WROBEL, MEGAN ELWOOD MADDEN, ANDY ELWOOD MADDEN

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