Students will have three options on how to attend when classes start Aug. 12 in McAlester.

McAlester Public Schools will offer the traditional in-class learning environment, but students will also be able to attend through a virtual model and blended courses with both in-person and virtual elements. Superintendent Randy Hughes said he believes the plan will help all students continue their education under the proper safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re looking right now to start Aug. 12 and I know things can change, and it can change the day before, but that’s kind of the plan,” Hughes said. “We’re taking all the precautions and doing everything we can.”

Hughes said the school’s virtual program is in its third year and will be available to all students, as well as a blended model that offers in-person and virtual attendance options for various classes.

He said the online curriculum follows a guide and the computer-based program is available for any parents who feel unsafe about sending their children to school.

Hughes added that any virtual program student will be available for any extracurricular activity — as long as the student attends at least one class in person.

“With all of the things going on, we’re really hoping we can provide the education for the kids of our community and meet the need and still make them feel and their parents feel like they’re safe,” Hughes said.

“This is not the education that I grew up with or that I like,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he believes education and attending in person teaches life lessons like working toward a goal, being on time, how to work with others, and other things.

But he said keeping the community safe takes a higher priority.

“Whichever way they would like to do so they feel safe and more confident, we’ll do that,” Hughes said.

Hughes said part of the plan is to implement distance learning — and the entire district has more experience with that model after the State Board of Education forced schools to finish last year with distance learning methods.

He said teachers and parents learned how to use technologies, the district learned where it needed to provide internet access, and more issues were resolved through the experience.

Hughes said the virtual learning is computer-driven, while he prefers distance learning because it is teacher-driven.

“I still believe there is nothing better than a great teacher and we have some of the best teachers in the country in our district,” Hughes said.

McAlester’s virtual program runs through Edgenuity, which is an online education platform.

Hughes said the distance learning model uses Google Classroom, Google Meets, and other online applications.

He said every student will have a device to use remotely for the upcoming school year to also help with implementing the plan.

Hughes said the district will have a centralized enrollment starting with the online portion available through PowerSchool on July 2.

Parents, guardians or students will need an account through PowerSchool to start the process and can contact the student’s school or the central office for any questions.

Hughes said an in-person meeting will be required later for final paperwork and to distribute devices.

“One of the things we hope parents understand is we’re not in a bubble so there is a risk any time they do send (students to school),” Hughes added. “But we’re going to take all the precautions — we’re going to social distance, we’re going to clean, we’re going to do everything.”

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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