Enid Public Schools is developing a plan to provide distance learning for students after it was announced Monday that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister will recommend schools remain closed for the rest of the semester as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Board of Education will meet Wednesday morning to make the decision on the continuous learning plan official.

"We are sharing this information with you in advance, however, so that you can begin to prepare accordingly for your family," EPS Superintendent Darrell Floyd said in a message to parents Monday. "We understand this recommendation is in the best interest of everyone’s health, which is our greatest priority as a district. If approved, this also means that all extracurricular activities and special events will be canceled as well. Making these difficult decisions, we believe, is simply the right thing to do for our students, our staff and our community."

EPS now will develop a plan on how to implement distance learning.

"Enid Public Schools is developing a plan to ensure your child will continue to have opportunities to learn and to grow academically, especially with parental support," EPS Superintendent Darrell Floyd said in a message to parents Monday. "Because we are unable to safely gather together, these lessons and activities will primarily be delivered and communicated electronically. As you can imagine, this is a significant transition for our students and our teachers, and we are hopeful we will be able to provide internet access to even more students.

"EPS will spend the next two weeks planning for this effort and will share details with your family as soon as they are available. Teachers and support staff will hear from their principals soon as they gather input regarding the next phase of school closure."

EPS is working to provide more internet access to students. Every student in middle school and high school has a Chromebook and a hot spot with free wifi.

"This device and the wifi can be used by other siblings in the home as well," according to EPS. "We are also planning to determine what homes do not need a hot spot so that the devices can be shared with those who do. EPS may be able to also distribute the 1:1 devices that are kept for elementary students at school. We just want to be sure that any pick-up and/or distribution process will be safe for families and employees. We need to have as limited physical or in-person contact as possible for now."

Other end-of-year activities, such as graduation and prom, "will have to be postponed, canceled or honored in non-traditional ways," according to EPS.

"For students, it likely will be sad and disappointing to learn that school as they know it will not resume this year," Floyd said. "Please give them a safe place to express their feelings and to vent about the changes in their life. For our seniors and their parents, we know it is an especially difficult time. We will do everything possible to ensure their efforts are recognized and celebrated in special and unique ways. This is an unfair situation, but please reassure them that it does not diminish their achievements. In fact, it will become one more example of how they demonstrated their strength as Plainsmen and Pacers."

According to EPS, those "students who were on track to graduate or promote prior to the COVID-19 closure will not be negatively impacted by the state Board of Education’s decision to move to a home-based learning program."

Hofmeister announced early Monday afternoon she will propose the continuous learning plan to the State Board of Education to complete the school year.

She also said there will not be traditional, in-person instruction or extracurricular activities, instead following critical safety guidance from Centers for Disease Control with regard to social distancing for students, staff and school families.

Oklahoma State Department of Education has secured federal waivers removing the burden of statewide assessments and permitting the delivery or curbside pick-up of nutritional meals for qualifying students for the remainder of the school year.

"Our districts have begun planning their alternative delivery methods to support student learning as they prepare to reconnect students with their teachers in adaptive ways,” Hofmeister said. “We are determined to support our pre-K through high school students as well as English learners, special education students and those who need reinforced skills or additional enrichment."

Beginning April 6, districts will be expected to provide distance learning for the remainder of the school year. How that learning occurs, Hofmeister said, will vary widely according to the capacity and needs of districts and their communities. Districts would start once they have provided assurances to OSDE of a distance learning plan as well as special services for English learners and special education students.

“I have faith in the commitment, innovation and creativity of Oklahoma educators and administrators,” Hofmeister said. “Many districts across our state have utilized online instruction already and likely will be able to hit the ground running. Other districts have significant technology limitations, while some might opt for instructional materials delivered to students. There will be a wide range of approaches and it will be far from ideal, but necessary as we embrace these changes and even sacrifice to protect the public health of our communities.”

She said the OSDE will offer resources and guidance for districts to pursue distance learning. In addition, the agency is exploring how federal assistance could bolster digital connectivity for some districts. OETA, Oklahoma’s educational public TV network, also will provide help. In partnership with OSDE, OETA will broadcast instructional daytime programming for the state’s pre-K through 12th-grade students.

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