Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Hime has answered questions posed by district parents, as administrators move closer to starting school for the 2020-2021 school year on Aug. 21. Following is some of the questions posed and answered on LPS’ latest podcast, available through the district website at: lawtonps.org.
When is enrollment?
Hime: LPS is creating a seamless check-in process for all students who are going to school when classes resume Aug. 21. Hime said the district’s school options can be narrowed to two: virtual and traditional (which actually blends traditional in-class with virtual). This week, every parent will receive a form listing their child’s school and asking parents to indicate their choice of attending school virtually or in-person. Parents with special circumstances will be contacted. “We want as many kids back in buildings as possible, but know some kids will be better served at home,” Hime said.
Hime and LPS Director of Communications Lynn Cordes said LPS will be offering quality lessons created by teachers, with a goal of combining experienced teachers with quality materials to create a learning environment at home. Cordes said samples of those teacher-produced lessons will be shared with families on the LPS website this week. Teachers also will be able to build on those lesson plans, Hime said, adding “You will have some flexibility in how that content is taught.”
Is LPS requiring uniforms this year?
Hime: Different sites and grade levels have enforced the district uniform rule differently, but Hime said he wants consistency across the board and district administrators will be working with principals to ensure that happens. “That’s one of my goals: how can we make this better for parents,” Hime said, adding that discussion was pushed back because of the district’s recent focus on the COVID-19 virus. “The one thing we don’t want to do, we don’t want to create any hardship with parents, as far as what they are buying.” He asks parents to contact their schools to see what they need to buy.
I work all day and my kids attend school virtually. How will I teach them?
Hime: There will be day and night options offered to parents and students, in terms of teacher availability. He said that is why the district is putting out feelers to parents early, to compile a list of those who need a night option for teachers. The district is contacting its teachers to find those who are willing to work non-traditional hours. “We want to be flexible,” Hime said. “Some staff members may want to work 2(p.m.)-9(p.m.), rather than 8(a.m.)-3 (p.m.). We may hire a retired teacher to work with students.” He said the district has created a full array of lessons and wants parents to have as many options as they need.
How will the district manage class sizes?
Hime: The goal is 22 to 23 students per class, but Hime said principals will have some cases where classrooms exceed that number. Teachers will be part of the solution; for example, those with multiple centers or work stations will reduce them so more room is available for students. Social distancing will be enforced. Parents are to learn this week about site plans for each school, before students return to campus. And, parents will be asked for suggestions.
What will extracurricular activities look like?
Hime: Hime said in some cases, social distancing measures will be easy: PE classes take place in gyms where there is room to distance. Music rooms typically have room to social distance, but the act of singing will present a challenge. “The more we read and the more we see, the closer we get to starting school, the more data, masks are everything,” Hime said. He said the district’s goal is social distancing; when that isn’t possible, “we’re gonna put masks on students.”
Will extended day be offered?
Hime: “We definitely will meet those needs,” Hime said, adding school sites will continue to offer that service based on student need.
How will distance learning be offered?
Hime: Hime said the district has ordered enough digital devices to assign one per student. Students in Pre-kindergarten through third grade will have iPads; students in grades four through 12 will have Chromebooks. Younger students will not be allowed to take the devices home as older students will, but if students must move to virtual settings, the district will get their devices to them so lessons may continue. The district plans to provide insurance on devices ($30 per device) in case something happens, and wifi “hot spots” will be available to students who need it for a $15 insurance fee. Hime said that for $45, a student will have his/her own Chromebook and wifi to work at home, meaning students who must quarantine, for example, will stay current with lessons and connected with their teacher. “Once you are assigned a traditional teacher, we’d like as much as possible for the student to keep that teacher. Especially for our littles,” he said.
What will special services look like?
Hime: Hime said district personnel are contacting parents for information and questions, noting “we need one-on-one conversations.” Individual plans already are created for special needs students, and the district will find ways to improve things such as social distancing. Masks will be enforced “a little tighter in those classrooms,” he said. “It’s one of those things we’ll work out together.”
Occupational therapy is a littler trickier, he said and those students attending school virtually will be asked to come to a school site for their therapy to protect district personnel. “That will be a case-by-case basis,” he said, adding many students who need occupational therapy won’t be coming to school because they are high risk, and the district will work to minimize risk to those students.
What about substitutes and traveling teachers?
Hime: Buildings will be allowed to hire full-time subs, meaning a substitute will be located at a particular school rather than moving from building to building.
Will face shields be allowed?
Hime: Hime said the district still is discussing facial shields because health officials say shields will protect the person wearing it, but won’t protect others from the wearer. “We’re looking for things that protect you from me,” he said. “Face shields are not the same as a mask.” He said the issue also is one of flexibility: teachers need to see the faces of high risk students, for example: “We’re going to work hard to be flexible.”