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Owasso Public Schools resumes in-person instruction after virtual start to year

Owasso Public Schools resumes in-person instruction after virtual start to year

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Tiffany Eaton’s smile was hidden behind her mask, but her spirited demeanor gave it away.

The Owasso fourth grade math teacher eagerly stood outside her classroom at Ator Elementary Thursday morning and looked on as the school’s hallways filled with returning students.

Eaton was among hundreds of instructors across Owasso Public Schools who welcomed their pupils back to in-person classes on Thursday, Sept. 17, following a weeks-long hiatus due to coronavirus complications (see photo gallery).

“I think have more butterflies right now than I do when we have a normal first day of school,” she said. “We’ve gotten to know (the students) via a screen … and so they’re excitement to be back has kind of transferred over to me, so I’m extra excited.”

Eaton’s time spent teaching virtual lessons came as part of the district’s Pivot to Home program, which kicked off on Aug. 24 after Superintendent Amy Fichtner gave the green light earlier in the month to transition solely to distance learning.

OPS made the decision on Sept. 4 to return to physical classes after determining that COVID-19 trends for Tulsa County and the Owasso community were similar to that of mid-July, when officials intended to convene inside the buildings.

Around 80% of enrolled students began in-person instruction Thursday, district officials said, who showed up with protective masks and adhered to strict sanitation and social-distancing guidelines.

“Our students and families did an amazing job with all of the protocols this morning,” Fichtner said. “Things were very different in (OPS), but we were very grateful for the grace and cooperation that people extended to each other. It was an incredible example of community today.”

Despite the learning curve of new classroom conventions, teachers like Haley Nelson echoed Eaton’s sentiment about finally utilizing the school buildings to their fullest extent.

“We are all excited and have been ready for this day,” said Nelson, who teaches fifth grade at Barnes Elementary. “Relationships have already been established through Pivot to Home, and so it’s just an extension of that, and we are all happy to be together in school.”

Students are also readjusting to the curriculum outside the confines of their homes, where they settled into a routine in front of a computer screen. Alex Sandoval-De La Cruz, for example, said he’s ready to starting working face to face again.

“I feel good. I will get to see a bunch of my friends, and I’m going learn a lot of stuff,” said De La Cruz, a fourth grader at Barnes. “My favorite thing about my teacher is that she teaches reading really good.”

Elisabeth Marshall, a student at Owasso 7th Grade Center, added, “I get to see all my friends, and it’s definitely easier to learn in person than virtual. There were so many technical issues when doing virtual and a lot of distractions.”

Owasso families can still utilize Pivot to Home during the school year for an individual class, a grade level at a certain campus, an entire building or the district as a whole, if necessary, OPS officials said.

Jenks Public Schools returned to in-person classes a week before OPS on Sept. 10. Owasso’s reopening leaves Tulsa Public Schools as the last school district in the area to stick with distance learning at least through the first semester.

More information can be found at owassops.org.

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