MIAMI — The new school year in Miami is now set to begin Aug. 12 and what lies ahead is unknown due to COVID-19. No one — educator, parent/guardian, or student — has ever experienced a school year like this one is sure to be.

The Miami Public School district has worked hard to develop a just-released re-entry plan for back to school), which considers guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and other vital organizations.

Core area teams met to research other plans, review recommendations, and get feedback from stakeholder groups to help them develop the “MPS Design for Learning 2020-2021” re-entry plan, which, however, is still subject to change based on the local COVID-19 situation.

The purpose for releasing it now is to give everyone the opportunity to provide feedback before it is reviewed by the board later this month.

“Our plan will be approved officially by our school board on July 27 — we moved it back so we could see what the state is going to require,” MPS Superintendent Jeremy Hogan said. “We are requiring all staff wear face coverings of some type. We are supplying those and quite a few of our community partners have purchased some as well.

“The state board of education meets Thursday and it looks like they are going to mandate some type of a mask requirement for staff and students, so that will change our game plan a bit.”

MPS anticipate opening at disease level one on Aug. 12 and reassessing conditions after Labor Day.

Level one means no positive cases on campus; no directives from local and/or state agencies to reduce capacities; school is fully open with COVID-19 well-being protocols in place, and giving parents the option of either in-person instruction or virtual program (a semester-long commitment). Should the disease level increase there would be changes to the protocols.

“Students who ride the bus will have to wear a mask as of the plan right now, and we will recommend that students in the school buildings wear a mask. As of now it’s not required, but that could be mandated by the state next week and, if so, we will definitely abide by that,” Hogan said.

“I think we have a good, solid strategy in place to allow us to address any issue that arises. It’s a very flexible plan — we didn’t get so specific that it pinches us in a corner. There’s some flexibility there so we can work with the health department, the state department of education, our local health officials, or whoever it need be to make the decisions that are best for the students, staff, and families of MPS,” he said.

Hogan said MPS will adjust as necessary going forward, but the ultimate goal is to create as safe a learning environment as possible for all staff, students, and visitors.

“Hopefully it will allow us to have as much face-to-face instruction during the year as possible. Our plan is to start the school year face-to-face and that won’t change unless there’s some type of a major outbreak in our county or community,” Hogan said.

“With what we are seeing right now, if I had to I would bet we will have some positive tests and will have to react to that. We might have to close down a classroom, or a school site, or possibly even district-wide. Each situation is different and it just depends. When you release 2,200 students and 250 staff out of your school buildings on a daily basis, you don’t know what they are doing outside the school and who all they are interacting with. There’s just a lot that is outside our control.”

The Ottawa County Health Department and medical professionals aren’t going to report the identity of any positive cases to MPS, according to Hogan.

“It’s going to be kind of an honors-based system,” he said. “We are going to set up an online reporting tool for staff and students that will be kept confidential amongst a select group of school leaders. That way we can move those who test positive over to a virtual learning format and then we can sanitize and clean the necessary spaces and notify whoever it was they were in close contact with.”

Close contact defined by the health department is less than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes. Anyone that falls in that category will have to quarantine or be tested and provide the school a medical release before they can return.

“It’s going to be a big work in progress and we have talked through various scenarios, but there are thousands of them and we couldn’t address every single one. We will be very proactive during our processes and any situations that may arise,” Hogan said.

For more information about the back–to-school plan, log onto http://miami.k12.ok.us/