Oasis Academy plans on hybrid model for K-8 next month | NevadaAppeal.com

Oasis Academy plans on hybrid model for K-8 next month

By Thomas Ranson Nevada News Group

After weathering the first semester with a mixed learning model, Oasis Academy plans on returning all K-8 students to an in-person hybrid model on Jan. 4. 

“The majority of parents have opted into coming back to in-person learning, with an average of nine to 10 students at each grade level opting into a fully virtual model,” said Oasis Academy Chief Executive Officer Melissa Mackedon, who added the high school students will continue their ‘A Day, B Day’ model that started last month. “The majority of parents and students are eager for this model to start and the majority of the feedback has been very positive.”

Students in grades K-4 were on campus for morning sessions, while the 5-8 grades were learning 100 percent virtually.

So far during the opening semester, Mackedon said that the school received 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including nine students, and only five are active. She said four of the cases required contact tracing at the school, which resulted in exclusions of staff and students. However, Mackedon said her staff is not aware of any spread within the school due to their strict mitigation efforts.

“The majority of those cases were either fully virtual students or illness onset occurred late in Thanksgiving break, so those individuals did not return to school,” Mackedon added. “We are, of course, keeping an eye on the Thanksgiving surge that started this week in order to help make final decisions about January.”

The contact tracing, so far, has been time consuming for the OACP staff with them needing to reach out to all affected families and explaining the process.

“For us, what has been more time consuming than this, so far, is explaining the quarantine/exclusion rules to families that have either symptomatic or household contacts that are positive on a day-to-day basis,” Mackedon said. “There is a long list of questions regarding symptoms, symptom onset that have to be addressed for every member of the household. Then explaining those exclusion rules of an additional 10 days after the release of the patient, takes a lot of time.”

Despite the time-consuming contact tracing efforts and case management, Mackedon said teachers have stood out with learning a new online model. The school’s Winter Maps testing window recently opened, and Mackedon said the staff is waiting to see the student growth data, in particular.

“I think the work that has gone on with our synchronous online learning is nothing short of miraculous,” she said. “These teachers were not formally trained in this model, and while we have done our best to provide the training that we can, I would never describe it as wholly adequate for what they were being asked to do and they have, without exception, risen to the occasions.”

Mackedon has been concerned, though, when staff have been excluded because of exposure. In most incidences, Oasis Academy has been able to find substitute teachers to cover.

“We continue to add names to our sub list and hope we can keep making it work,” she said. “In most instances, our teachers who are excluded are able to log in from home and teach their in-person classes remotely. That continuity of teacher instruction has been huge. That said, there is still a sub expense involved because obviously, you have to have a responsible adult in the room, monitoring and helping the students as the teacher teaches.”

With Congress gridlocked in trying to pass another COVID-19 relief package, Mackedon said she’s hopeful it can pass because the school benefited from a massive bill passed in March.

“Of course, those relief dollars do not equal what we stand to lose in Nevada’s upcoming session, should our per pupil allotment be cut, but they certainly have been helpful,” Mackedon added. “The allowable expenses have been broad enough to allow schools to use the money where they need it and that was important.”