PCPS Superintendent Issues Letter

Mike Seals - December 13, 2020 11:18 pm

Superintendent Shelley Arrott

Shelley Arrott, the Superintendent of the Ponca City Public School System has issued the following letter:

Dear PCPS Parents, Staff, and Community Members:

The entire PCPS District has been on Distance Learning since November 23, or for the last 12 school days, and many are understandably concerned about the instructional delivery options for the 2nd semester. The Board of Education meets on Monday, December 14 to consider options.

From the first day of school, August 24, the district has worked diligently to slow the spread of COVID-19 by implementing rigid mitigation protocols including wearing of face coverings, contact tracing, and coordinating with the Kay County Health Department as they issue isolations for positive cases and quarantines for close contacts.

I believe these efforts allowed us to stay with in-person instruction for 13 school weeks and our local health officials feel the same. The academic, social/emotional, and physical needs of our students are of utmost importance, and although the teachers of the district have done a remarkable job with Distance Learning, we also know there is no replacement for in-person instruction.

In addition, many of our students are suffering from food deprivation and are living in adverse conditions. Distance Learning makes it difficult for teachers, counselors, and other employees to identify signs of abuse and report them immediately when we do not see our students in-person.

I will recommend to the PCPS Board of Education that we return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. However, that decision will ultimately rest with the Ponca City Board of Education. As always, I will continue to confer regularly with local and state health department officials, and if conditions adversely change between now and January 5, 2021, the Board could reconvene, through a Special Board Meeting, to transition back to Distance Learning.

The OSDE COVID-19 Alert Map still indicates we are in the Red High Risk Alert Level, but that map only considers the number of new positive cases per 100,000 residents in the county and does not consider data applying to the district or information applying to the determent of our students not being in school.

However, we realize there are many students and families who are vulnerable to risks of contracting COVID-19, so we will continue to offer Ponca City Virtual Academy. We have issued press releases discussing how to enroll in PCVA for 2nd semester. Enrollment has been underway for the last couple of weeks, but please know that for students to be enrolled by January 5, the application must be submitted by 4:00 tomorrow, December 14.

However, applications will be taken through January 29 to ensure students receive semester credit for the courses. Please follow this link for all details: https://bit.ly/2VuS3Gl The following link is to the application for PCVA: https://bit.ly/30aMPRS

Assuming we have a January 5 in-person return date, the likelihood of in-school positives is inevitable. We will continue to mitigate rigidly through swift contact tracing, and we will continue to coordinate with the Kay County Health Department as they issue isolations and quarantines.

The district will follow the new CDC guidelines for close contacts, which we have previously informed the public. We will also require appropriate use of face coverings, distancing as much as possible, and frequent hand washing. We will continue with frequent and deliberate sanitation of facilities as well. If we reach significant levels of students or staff affected at a particular site, the recommendation will be to transition only the sites affected to Distance Learning for a period of two weeks. However, it could become necessary to transition the entire district to Distance Learning, which would require Board of Education approval.

As far as extra-curricular activities are concerned, I will recommend we resume varsity level continuation of activity competitions and other activities, with deliberate and well-planned safety protocols implemented and followed. If the BOE considers approval, more information will be released. If spread of the virus decreases, jr. high activities will be considered.

As we continue with rigid mitigation, please understand that every moment we have with our students for in-person instruction and participating in activities is a true blessing during a global pandemic. However, I am hopeful there is light at the end of the tunnel, and if we rally together as a community to slow the spread, we will give our most valiant effort to keep our students in school. However, we know how to transition to Distance Learning quickly if needed.

Our greatest priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members, so we will take swift and appropriate action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

WEEKLY COVID-19 INFORMATION:
• PCPS reported 20 in-school positives last week. We still have staff in the buildings and the KCHD still reports student positives to the district while on Distance Learning. Since our students are on Distance Learning, we do believe parents are not reporting every positive case or close contact quarantine.
• The December 11 COVID Alert System Risk Level increased this week from 79.7-Red Level High Risk to 86-Red Level High Risk on the State Department of Education’s color-coded Risk Level Chart. However, there was a reporting error on the December 4 Level and the latest results indicated catch-up from the previous week.
• The BOE voted in a Special Meeting on 11.19 to move the entire district to Distance Learning for the remainder of the semester, November 23-December 18, equating to 17 school days, with 5 of those days remaining.
• Do your part to slow the spread by wearing face coverings, watching your distance, washing your hands, avoiding large group gatherings, staying home if experiencing symptoms, and staying in isolation or quarantined if imposed by the Kay County Health Department.

Since the District moved to Distance Learning, we changed our feeding opportunities to 4 locations and there is no need to call in advance to order a meal. The serving locations are Garfield, PO-HI, Union, and West. Drive-through and walk-up meals are served from 11:00 AM-12:30 PM. All meals are free to children 1-18 years of age. Children do not have to be present, but adults must provide each child’s name. If you or your child are having tech issues while on Distance Learning, please refer to the PCPS Technology Hub. https://bit.ly/3kYUnjh The Tech Hub can help you learn the basics of Chromebooks, learn how to use Google Classroom, or request Tech Support for a device. Please call the office of the site your child attends if you need further assistance.

I cannot express enough how much I appreciate your patience and flexibility as we navigate and respond to this global pandemic that provides us no predictability. I know it has been a hardship on everyone and our families have really put forth great effort during Distance Learning.

We love our students, families, and community and we are trying to meet the needs of our students, while keeping our school and community safe. I will continue to stay in constant communication with everyone.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at 580-767-8000.

Sincerely,
Shelley Arrott Superintendent, Ponca City Public Schools

 

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