Dear School of the Osage Students, Families, and Community- 
 
As you know by now, our district is constantly working on keeping the lines of communication open.   These past two weeks, we piloted a platform called Thought Exchange to host a community conversation during a time when we can’t actually have a LIVE town hall or coffee meeting as we’ve done in the past. This tool is really different from anything we have used before because it uses artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic structures to generate an understanding of what is most important to the community.  Individual thoughts still matter, but they are elevated to community priorities by way of a starring system where people can weigh in on the ideas of others. 
 
Participation in the thought exchange was very high: 1,116 participants; 1,792 thoughts shared; 61,583 star ratings.  To state the obvious, these numbers are vastly different from what we see on our typical surveys.
 
I will have a full report to share in next week’s update. But for today, I want to address a few timely issues that emerged in response to the question What are some of the most important things we should be thinking about as we plan for next year?  
 
We looked at the top four rated thoughts in each of the four main stakeholder groups. The main topic of each was different, but can be loosely summarized as follows.

  • Parents- Keep offering opportunities for all students!
  • Community- Keep the 4 day week; it is good for families and local economy!
  • Staff- Take the week off for Thanksgiving- everyone is tired!
  • Students- Work load for students should be closely examined!

  
The Thanksgiving off sentiment was certainly shared in the other groups as well, even though it wasn’t the top priority in those groups. A key idea that was also mentioned frequently across multiple groups was the use of snow days. The ideas connected to each of these ideas were tightly linked to the fact that people need a break (and also that attendance would be bad on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving). 
 
Let’s take Thanksgiving first. Everyone is tired. And teachers have a particular cause for this right now.  Teachers have provided over 20,000 hours of quarantine instruction on top of seated instruction and distance learning Mondays (which are very work intensive in their own right).   
Certainly the consideration of Thanksgiving break will be on the table for planning for next year, but for this year, we are keeping our existing calendar; and I want you to know why.  A bad attendance day here still means about 1,800 students show up. Even if only half of those students show up on that Tuesday- that’s still a lot of students and their families currently planning to be here that day. Also, to be blunt, we are highly concerned about the days after Thanksgiving break- when a spike in cases connected to holiday gatherings could pose some real challenges to keep schools open.  As we are consistently reminded by the recent closures in neighboring districts, and the precarious nature of our own COVID numbers, we aren’t out of the “pivot to distance learning” woods yet. We’ve succeeded at the level we have so far because our distance learning Mondays have helped tremendously. However, our success has given some people the idea that we are immune to community spread- and we are not.  Keeping our Thanksgiving week plan will provide an opportunity to keep moving forward during this uncertainty. 
 
Now, that said, we must reiterate that we know all of this is creating an enormous amount of pressure on all involved. This was reflected in the thought exchange, often in connection with a call for a revisiting of snow day logistics. One person said some version of “we’ve all lost so much- can’t we at least have an old-fashioned snow day?” I assume, as with Thanksgiving, this thought is more connected to this year than in response to the question of next year. The fact of the matter is that our calendar contains the equivalent of approximately 5 days that we could eliminate without having to make them up. Before the next update, we will designate several as old school snow days (and then we will resume with any over the designated limit with distance learning day). There are some stakeholders who think none of these days should be Old School snow days and some that are adamant that there should be 5 of them. I will update you next week- and, as ever, invite you to reach out to me with input or questions.   
 
Finally, the extremely valid point has been made repeatedly that we are all here in the service of providing as many opportunities for students as possible. Success in this pursuit can be measured in various ways. Here is some data from 1st quarter to illustrate how things are going as a result of all the hard work that has been accomplished through the above and beyond efforts of our students, our community, our staff, and YOU.  

Charts listed below 

Students Reading On or Above Grade Level.

Chart-Students reading at grade level

Students Attending School.

Chart

Student Discipline Incidents

Chart - discipline

 And a few more updates, requests, and/or reminders 

  • Speaking of COVID. Please help us out by remembering that if your student is symptomatic and/or exposed to the virus and has been tested for COVID, the student may not come back to school until a negative test result has been received. 
  • Students and staff must be fever free for 72 hours without medication before returning to school. Again, I implore you to continue to be diligent with this. We are currently navigating a higher than normal spat of active cases. Keeping schools open continues to be a huge group effort. (Osage Reentry plan here.)
  • Click here for the latest COVID-19 dashboard update. 
  • After school tutoring starts this week. If you have any questions, please contact your student(s) building principal.                        
  • Please note that Monday, November 16th is a planned work day for staff and a planned day off for students; and there will be no childcare services.
  • Due to the delay in some students receiving their original picture day portraits and some students not receiving portraits that had been ordered, Lifetouch Photography will be working directly with the schools to add a second retake day. Retake days will be scheduled in a manner that will allow the return of any outstanding retake pictures to families and so that students have enough notice to prepare for picture day. If any student has a picture packet with which they are not happy, they may return the packet on retake day and have a new photo taken to receive a replacement packet with the new picture. If you ordered a picture packet and have not received it, please feel free to reach out to your local Sales Professional, Mike Baldwin, at [email protected].   
  • Do you want to request for your student to move from in-person to virtual learning or back from virtual to in-person learning? Please submit your request by email to the designated contact by November 20. Heritage: [email protected], Upper Elementary: [email protected], Middle School: [email protected], High School: [email protected]
  • OHS Theatre is proud to present The Wizard of Oz. In order to keep our audience safe and socially distanced, half capacity of Cummings Auditorium will be sold for each performance.  Show dates/times are November 19-21 at 7:00 PM with a 2:00 PM Matinee on Saturday (Understudy Show). Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.  
  • There will be a senior citizens drive-thru dinner on Thursday, November 19th from 4:00 - 5:00 pm. RSVP: (573) 348-0115 or visit our website for more information. 
  • Click here for information on how to participate in the Osage Cares November Challenges hosted by our Osage Wellness team.

 
Finally, HAPPY VETERAN’S DAY! It is such an honor to live and work in a community that values the courageous sacrifice of our nation’s heroes past and present. Thank you to all the Veterans who help to make the fabric of School of the Osage patriotic through and through!  

Be Well.
Sincerely, 

Dr. Laura Nelson
Superintendent 
[email protected] 
 
*Indian Support Hotline: 
573-552-8878 or [email protected] 
 
OHS- 573-348-0115
OMS- 573-552-8326
UE-573-348-0004
HE- 573-365-5341
ECC-573-552-8899
 
Additional Community Support Resources:
Hope House Food Pantry at (573) 365-0099
Camden County Community Assistance Hotline at (573) 346-6145  
Miller County Community Assistance Hotline at (573) 692-0426