It is during times like these when I develop greater empathy for meteorologists. When Travis Meyer and his weather team create the forecast for next week, I suspect they evaluate the latest data and climate models, review past trends and NWS guidance, and then add their own professional experience and knowledge to make the most accurate predictions possible. Most of the time, they are amazingly accurate. We trust them because they are intelligent, professional, and conscientious. Yet, despite this, they are also occasionally wrong.
This typically occurs during severe weather outbreaks when the conditions are so unpredictable and fast-moving that the best they can offer is to advise viewers to be “weather-aware” – to hope for the best yet plan for the worst. Like tomorrow for instance, when people in the Tulsa-area may seemingly awaken to nothing on the ground, or to light freezing rain, or a dusting of light snow, or perhaps even a few inches of the white stuff.
The truth is that even with the best technology and knowledge, sometimes there are simply too many variables to be able to make predictions with absolute certainty. Carrying this analogy over to the unsettled and rapidly-changing storm of COVID we’re experiencing, it is also very difficult for our district team to be able to make solid predictions about school for next week.
As you can see in our weekly case counts, we have added 140 additional positive cases since we transitioned to remote learning on Tuesday. At last count, the district has 48 employees currently being tested or awaiting results. We have another 20 who remain ill who we are not planning to have back by next Tuesday. Our pool of substitutes has also been impacted by school closures in other districts as some of these folks now need to remain home to care for their own children.
The good news is that at this point, we believe we will be able to cover transportation, maintenance, and child nutrition needs to be able to resume in-person school on Tuesday. We are also okay relative to teachers and instructional support staff, right now. However, until we get closer to that date, I am unable to say with certainty that all students will be able to return on Tuesday. Bringing students back for in-person learning is our primary goal and we will be doing all we can over the next few days to make it happen.
The district team will be meeting Monday morning to evaluate our current data and assess our district's readiness to return in-person on Tuesday. We will make a final decision by noon Monday and will communicate these decisions to families and staff immediately thereafter. I regret that we are unable to provide a solid forecast today, but these are unpredictable times.
In short, plan for a return to in-person school on Tuesday, yet also be aware that things could change.
I do want to close on a positive note about this week. I have been in many classrooms over the past few days and witnessed some amazing virtual learning activities. Most students appear engaged and we have seen a very high rate of participation. I am enormously proud of our teachers and administrators for their ability to pivot quickly to remote learning, keep students connected to school, advance them academically, and have a little fun along the way. Parents, thank you for supporting our teachers and being patient and kind during these transitions.
I am confident better weather is on the way soon.
Have a nice weekend.