December 10, 2020
BPS Families and Staff,
Earlier tonight, the Bixby Board of Education approved a modification to the existing BPS 2020-2021 Academic Calendar. The changes were authorized to provide the district additional flexibility to operate our schools safely and effectively during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
There are several important elements to this change. First, the board approved an extension of the winter break through Friday, January 8th. This means there will be no school during the first week of January. These extra days will allow families and employees to have a ten-day “at-home” period after the winter holidays and New Year’s Eve, prior to returning to school for in-person instruction on January 11. Given the current and anticipated expansion in COVID case numbers after the holidays, it would be problematic to bring students back to in-person instruction during the first week of January after many families have traveled out of state and/or celebrated in large gatherings over the break.
We are also hopeful that this period away from school will assist in mitigating the spread of COVID in our community during this uncertain time. These instructional days have been added to the end of our school calendar, moving the last day of school from Wednesday, May 19 to Wednesday, May 26. This end date is still prior to Memorial Day. This change also provides the academic benefit of exchanging what would likely be distance learning days in January to face-to-face instructional days in May. Additionally, the district professional development day scheduled for Monday, January 4 has been moved to Monday, April 5.
During the meeting, the board also discussed a reopening plan for the second semester. Again, our shared objective is to return students to in-person instruction as soon as possible, while also remaining cognizant of the legitimate health and safety needs of students, staff, and families.
The plan consists of three possible options for the first four weeks of the next semester (Jan 11 - Feb 5), each predicated on the COVID status in our state, city, and school community as of Friday, January 8. It is important to note that ALL of these plans include a minimum of one week of in-person instruction the week of Jan 11-15 to allow for face-to-face time between teachers and students who are new to their assignments or classes. Examples include students returning from full-time virtual, students starting new semester classes, and students who are new to our schools. What happens with instructional placement AFTER January 15 will be dependent on COVID conditions at that time. Essentially, there are three scenarios that may unfold between now and early January relative to COVID -- conditions can (1) improve, (2) stabilize, or (3) worsen.
If conditions improve, meaning that local and county case counts along with local hospitalizations decrease, and our community returns to a lower risk level (Orange or better), our intent would be to keep all BPS students in school after January 11 and continue to manage cases internally, just as we did through most of the first semester. Regrettably, based on current predictions, this is the least likely scenario of the three.
If conditions stabilize, which translates to COVID conditions remaining more or less where they are now, our goal is to bring all students in grades PK-8 back to in-person through February 5. High school students would return for the week of Jan 11-15, then transition to distance learning from Jan 18-22 (built-in quarantine period), then back to in-person January 25 to February 5.
Unfortunately, based on projections from the CDC and our state and county health departments, it is more likely that COVID conditions will continue to deteriorate over the next four to six weeks. This would be reflected by ever-increasing case counts and increasing hospitalizations which would move local hospitals into tier 4 (over 40% of capacity dedicated to COVID patients).
If this scenario occurs, the district is prepared to adopt a cyclic reopening plan which incorporates some in-person instruction with other weeks in distance learning. For example, all schools would reopen from January 11-15. After the initial week, secondary students (grades 7-12) would return to distance learning for the next three weeks. However, students in elementary grades (PK-6) would alternate weeks: Jan 11-15 and Jan 25-29 in-person and Jan 18-22 and Feb 1-5 distance learning. While this is not ideal, it strives to balance the urgency of having some face-to-face instruction for our younger students with the health and safety concerns for our school community.
I want to reiterate that it is everyone’s desire to get students safely and consistently back to school. We recognize the hardships on families and the emotional, mental, and academic toll on our children that disrupted learning creates. While I would enjoy nothing more than to provide you with a definitive plan for resumption of school through the second semester today, there are simply too many factors that are beyond our control. We will strive to continue to develop and communicate plans and decisions in a transparent and timely manner.
We look forward to seeing your children back in classrooms on January 11th. I wish you all the best during the upcoming holiday season and hope that you and your families stay healthy and well.