OSCODA – Administration at Oscoda Area Schools (OAS) have decided that all schooling from grades kindergarten through 12th grade will be done remotely, for the time being, due to the number of presumptive positive cases within the school.
An executive order administered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), on Nov. 15, ordered all Michigan high schools to work remotely – until the order ends on Tuesday, Dec. 8. In order to slow the spread and keep school administrators, teachers and students safe, Superintendent Dr. Scott Moore decided it would be best for all students to learn remotely for the time being.
Initially when school administrators received word on the executive order from the MDHHS, Moore said they were disappointed because he felt up to this point there wasn’t a lot of alterations that had to be made in order for students to be successful. At the time of the order, Moore said he was hopeful that Richardson Elementary School (RES) students could learn face-to-face; however as more presumptive cases became apparent he felt it was necessary to temporarily omit the in-person option.
“Just because we were getting so much traffic on cases that it compromised our ability to do anything else from an administrative perspective and also from the health department’s perspective, we wanted to try and identify where the spreads are coming in and try and slow them down,” said Moore. “We’re having to inform so many people that they are to be quarantined. I don’t have the authority and the district doesn’t have the authority to quarantine somebody, but the health department in this past week has become so overrun that they’ve been working with the local school districts to contact, trace, to work through, to act as that conduit of communication and it has literally been nonstop.”
At press time, Moore said that according to his communications with the health department, there has been considerable success in slowing the virus due to ordering students to work from home.
“It’s a situation where we are all trying our best and we feel strongly that the school is a safe haven for a lot of kids and we want to try and be as safe as what we can. We feel that we’ve had a lot of things in place,” said Moore.
Additionally, to make it possible for all students and staff to work remotely, the OAS Board of Education held a special meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 17, to approve a telecommunication policy. According to Moore, the reason for the push to approve the policy was due to a message from Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).
“We felt a real push that we need to encourage as many of our people that can get their tasks done from home, to do so, but its evolving every day as we continue different ways of delivering instruction,” said Moore.
Additionally the policy, according to Moore, gives the superintendent the ability to make sure that people are working from home if its feasible.
“I wanted to make sure that was in place and so did everybody else because if we didn’t have it in place there could be potential fines that are significant. Part of the rules is having a policy in place, so that’s why we had to push to get a policy in so fast,” said Moore.
Since the approval of the policy, Moore said himself and other administrators have been evaluating each position and trying to find out what they can and can’t do from home.
“That’s be an ongoing process for sure,” said Moore.
Further, with the changes due to the order and number of presumptive cases, Moore said that changes to the COVID Preparedness and Response plan would take place over the next few weeks.
“It is going to take a little bit of time to develop those instruments because it takes collaboration with each one of our positions, so we’ll continue to do that. We will be updating the plan as a result of this.”
Moore added that if administrators are able to offer face to face instruction they will do so.
“If we can do face to face instruction safely we’re going to because we feel our kids need it and their much more successful. I believe that’s what our staff wants also. At the other end of it, we also have to be wise right now and the influx of cases that we’ve seen right now is off the charts,” said Moore.
Additionally, Moore said he expects that the cases are coming from students homes from adults. He said originally there was an expectation there was a school wide spread through community basketball, but he found that wasn’t the case. Also, there was a case on a school bus; however he said that case has been isolated.