Schools announce instruction plans for fall
By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Community Schools released more details about what school will look like this fall in a July 22 email sent to parents by Supt. Tim Throne.
The plan was developed in accordance with recommendations and requirements set by Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap. The details remain broad and general.
“With safety as our top priority, these highlights are provided to help families make informed decisions,” the letter stated. “We still have much to decide and plan for, but we wanted to share what we have concluded based on the Governor’s guidance so you could begin to plan.”
The plan has been narrowed down to two options for families to decide: in-person seated instruction five days a week or fully online via Oxford Virtual Academy. (The schools had also considered alternatives of hybrid seated and virtual instruction or all schools online from the get-go.)
The regular seated instruction option is contingent on which phase southeast Michigan is in the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The Detroit region has been in Phase 4 since June 1.
As long as it stays in phases 4-6, the schools will continue seated instruction. However, if it dips back down to phases 1-3 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, the schools will have to switch back to remote learning.
The in-person seated plan applies to all OCS brick and mortar schools: Clear Lake, Daniel Axford, Lakeville, Leonard, Oxford Elementary, Oxford Middle School, Oxford High School and Oxford Bridges High School.
If school begins in Phase 4, all students return to school every day. Masks will be required for all staff, students in grades 6-12, and DK-12 students on the buses, in hallways and common areas. Face coverings are highly recommended in the classroom for DK-5, but not required as students will remain with their class only throughout the school day. A doctor’s note will be required to opt out of face covering requirement.
Staff will teach and reinforce frequent handwashing. All classrooms will have soap and hand sanitizer.
Social distancing will not always be feasible, but desks will be spaced as far apart as possible. There will be signage and floor marking to encourage social distancing. Indoor assemblies will be prohibited. Guest and visitors in the school will be limited.
All students who ride a bus will be assigned a seat to assist with tracking and monitoring.
The plan does not describe what lunch and recess would look like. “At this time, we do not have every detail ironed out,” said Anita Qonja, Executive Director of Elementary Instruction at Oxford Schools. There are meetings scheduled to better plan lunch for elementary and secondary students. “Once we have all these details, we will share them with the Board and with our community.”
If school begins in Phase 5, OCS plans to continue the safety protocols in Phase 4, but they may be modified based on state or local health conditions.
If forced to switch to remote learning, schedules will be made to prevent overlaps. The curriculum will continue to be taught by classroom teachers “with an emphasis on increased rigor through a combination of teacher-guided lesson, online work, and independent practice” according to the plan.
The district would provide technology devices to all students.
There will be some differences in the remote learning plan from the ‘Continuity of Learning Plan’ the schools implemented this spring.
“We really used the parent, student, and staff feedback to make revisions and improve the rigor to our remote learning plan,” Qonja said. “We are still in the review processes of these plans. Again, once we are in a more finalized place, we will share the details.”
Depending on Oakland County Health Department guidelines, the district and/or individual buildings may transition between remote and in-person learning depending on health conditions throughout the year.
On the other hand, Oxford Virtual Academy is a fully online option for all phases, 1-6. Established in 2010, OVA is no stranger to remote learning. The letter highlights OVA’s advantages:
Students can learn from anywhere. It is self-paced with a flexible schedule. The district provides technology devices to all students. The curriculum is provided through a content vendor and tailored by OVA teachers. It is personalized to fit all learning styles with optional learning paths available.
The in-person learning lab at 176 S. Washington will be open as health and safety protocols allow.
Families who already know they are not comfortable returning to school in person in the fall are encouraged to choose this option.
Throne emphasized that students will have a limited ability to transfer between the two options.
“Transfers may occur before school starts and at trimester/semester breaks. Should you decide to transfer, we ask that you communicate your decision to transfer by Monday, August 17, 2020 to allow us to prepare student schedules and staffing.”
At the July 14 Board of Education meeting, Throne said a lot parents have said they are waiting to make their final decision since a lot could change in the next few weeks.
The letter attached a survey for families to fill out so the district can better understand the perspective of the community as they continue planning.
Among other things, the survey asks whether families plan to use the bus, whether their child has a reusable mask, and how they would rate their concern over their child’s social-emotional wellbeing because of the pandemic and their peer relationships because of social distancing.
The first day of school is Aug. 31.