Jan. 10, 2022
Owasso Parents & Guardians,
I regret that my first letter to you in my role as interim superintendent is not more lighthearted, however, the reality of our current circumstances required me to reach out to you today.
Like every school district in our area, this latest surge of COVID-19 has caused another set of challenges to navigate. In particular, our staff has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and general illness (flu, stomach bug, etc.) that we are all used to seeing this time of year. Staff members contacted the district throughout the weekend reporting illnesses, which contributed to more than 175 staff absences today. That accounts for more than 15% of all OPS staff. Each area of our district was affected in some way – bus drivers, child nutrition staff, teachers and everything in between.
While certain areas have learned to adjust to a thin staff throughout the pandemic, each of these surges has presented a significant challenge in the ability to staff classrooms, provide quality instruction and the appropriate supervision necessary to ensure a safe place for your students each day. Our human resources team is doing everything possible to fill those vacancies by reaching out to substitutes and continuing to find ways to recruit and train additional substitute candidates.
I say all of this to let you know that we will do everything that we can to keep our school doors open. However, should staff absences continue to increase as they have over the last several days, we may be left with no choice but to pivot to distance learning at a particular school site. Please consider and begin planning for this possibility, as I cannot guarantee that the district will be able to give multiple days of notice before making such a move. As you likely have heard by now, we were forced to make the difficult decision earlier today to move Hodson Elementary to distance learning for the remainder of the week.
Our preference at this time is to evaluate each site individually rather than to pivot the entire district to distance learning. These decisions are not made lightly and while we wish to maintain in-person instruction, we must consider the ability to serve students safely and equitably.
We are continuing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as best we can in our buildings and buses with regular cleaning and sanitizing along with contact tracing and notification of close contacts. Additionally, the district has remained with a 10-day isolation period for positive cases at this time in the hopes of preventing further spread.
I understand that a move to distance learning may be an inconvenience to your family and I apologize for that. We hope that these issues are short-lived and appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.
Dr. Margaret Coates