MIAMI – Public schools in Miami had a plan in place for going back to school next month, but new developments have thrown a wrench or two in that plan and administrators have gone back to the drawing board, so to speak.

Recently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education voted not to make facemasks mandatory in Oklahoma schools, but rather leave it up to individual districts.

That decision was quickly followed by Tulsa Public Schools announcing it would make wearing masks mandatory, and several other districts followed suit.

Now, officials at Miami Public Schools and others in the area have to make some hard and fast decisions that will meet their school boards’ approval for going back to school safely here.

“These are definitely challenging times,” MPS Superintendent Jeremy Hogan said when asked about the new developments. “We actually presented a plan for going back to school at the board meeting here this past Monday night and it was tabled, so we are reconvening and redeveloping our plan. Then we will have a special board meeting Monday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. at the high school activity center in the lecture hall to discuss it.”

Hogan said he hopes to present a couple of options for the board to consider that will include delaying the start date, face coverings, and how to deliver instruction.

“Will we start back with an AB format or a staggered schedule in groups, or will we transition to virtual, or will we go back with a full student population for the first day of school? Those are the three big areas we are strongly looking at.”

The MPS is also facing another challenge because a lot of the technology and personal protective equipment they have ordered has not arrived, which is one reason why a delayed school start date could be proposed.

The other reason, according to Hogan, is that MPS need time for more intensive staff training. He said he wants to have individualized meetings with sub groups of parents where they can “coach them up” in case they have to transition to a virtual or distance learning model.

“It’s a very, very fluid situation. I can’t imagine how parents feel. I mean, I’m a parent and I know I’m frustrated. You feel like the ground underneath you is constantly moving and you can’t get a good grip,” Hogan said. “I think we definitely need to give our board some options, because they are being pulled in a couple of different ways. We understand not everybody is going to agree with everything we do, but if we keep the safety of our students and staff at the forefront, I think people can understand and we can have some common ground on that.”

Hogan went on to say that he has decided to recommend pushing the start date back, but that he doesn’t yet know when that will be.

“It could be all the way to Sept. 8. We are going to look at a variety of factors and weigh my recommendation to the board. The other big area I will be recommending is that all staff, students, and visitors wear a face covering when social distancing is not possible.”

MPS’ draft plan is still the district’s guiding document, Hogan said, but it is being tweaked and fine-tuned. Of course the start date and how they are going to deliver instruction are very large areas that a lot of people are obviously interested in for good reason.

“If all goes well Monday night, God willing, we will have a solid direction in place so we can all move forward and get this year started,” Hogan said.