COVID UPDATE: A Letter from Superintendent Rob Miller of Bixby Public Schools

We wanted to share this letter from Rob Miller and encourage you to do the same. OAFP strongly supports this call for action. Stay safe, Oklahoma.   11/12/2020 COVID UPDATE   Bixby Public Schools November 12, 2020   BPS Families, Students, and Staff,   COVID-19 is unyielding, relentless, and uncaring. And, with each passing week, it further threatens our ability to lead normal lives, have school, enjoy our hobbies and activities, gather with family and friends, and stay safe.   The virus doesn’t care for whom you voted in last week’s election. Neither do I. I’m also growing indifferent to the many conspiracy theories continuing to circulate on social media relative to the origins of this terrible virus and potential political complicity. I’m unmoved by inaccurate and deceptive “research” that claims that masks and face coverings don’t work or cause greater spread, as I believe this is part of our problem. I’m dismayed by fraudulent reports that our medical professionals are ostensibly misleading our nation by exaggerating case numbers and falsely attributing deaths in the name of profit, because it dishonors the courageous, selfless work our doctors and nurses are doing to keep Americans alive.  I’m weary of the acrimonious politicization of this global pandemic because it serves no real purpose. I’m irritated by quasi-medical experts espousing the virtues of herd immunity with seemingly no regard for the millions of Americans who would have to perish to achieve that goal. I am disillusioned when I hear about the ostracization of students or families right here in Bixby for honestly reporting positive cases and close contacts, despite it being the right and necessary thing to do. Finally, I am frustrated when I travel around our city and community and see too many people outwardly disconnected from this pandemic - gathering in large groups, ignoring quarantines, choosing to eschew masks, and refusing to acknowledge the toll that COVID is having on our community, state, and nation.   As superintendent of Bixby Schools, and as a fellow citizen, here is what I do care about. I care about our students and the impact these past eight months have had on them academically, emotionally, physically, and socially. I’m deeply concerned about the tremendous weight our teachers are bearing learning new technologies on the run and striving to meet the needs of students in their classes, while also serving growing numbers of children who are learning at home, either due to quarantine or family choice. I deeply empathize with some of our students who are now on their second or third quarantine from school and who feel helpless and disenfranchised. I feel the emotional strain experienced by staff members with medical conditions, or with vulnerable family members at home, who are mustering up the courage to come to school every day despite the risks, because they love their students and don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’m troubled by the impact this virus is having on many families in our community, financially and emotionally. I worry that our schools or athletic events may inadvertently serve as catalysts for increased spread in our community, particularly to those most at risk - our grandparents and individuals with comorbidities or compromised immune systems. I fear that recent news about a potential vaccine may increase complacency or create false, premature hope among people in our state and community. I agonize over decisions which potentially affect the safety and welfare of our students and staff.  Every. Single. Day.   We are at a critical point in Bixby. Daily active case counts in our city have increased from 55 a month ago, to 106 a week ago, to 183 today. We are now one of nine zip codes in the county classified as RED, or high risk, signifying a “severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 which is straining or exceeding the capacity of the health department to respond.”  In BPS, we currently have 37 active cases among individuals in our district and approximately 470 students in quarantine and another 1,750 in distance learning. These figures are simply not sustainable.   Our objective from the start of school was to do everything we could to manage the pandemic internally while preserving the health and well-being of our students and staff. With proactive planning and consistent application of protocols and procedures, we hoped to be able to keep our schools open and students learning in-person. I think we have done very well up to this point. However, with the increasing number of teachers and staff being impacted, coupled with a shortage of qualified long-term substitutes, bus drivers, and other key personnel, we are stretched to the limit.   Friends, we need your help. As the Tulsa World headlined this morning: “Immediate Action Required.” I am not advocating for a complete shutdown like we experienced last spring. Nor am I suggesting we cancel our holiday traditions and hole up in our houses. What my teachers, employees, school board, and I are asking is for all of us to become a little more vigilant, a little more aware, a little more conscientious, a little more caring - at least for the next few months. This means avoiding large gatherings of people outside of our families, wearing a mask at all times when social distancing is not possible, washing our hands often, honestly reporting positive cases and contacts, limiting some of our indoor social activities, and being responsible Bixby citizens. The time to act is NOW before this virus gets any worse.   We may disagree on our beliefs and perceptions relative to this virus. I respect those differences and am not seeking to quarrel over those points. Yet, the fact remains that COVID-19 is here, it’s growing more severe by the day, it’s making our schools and communities less safe, it’s filling up our hospitals, and it’s endangering the most vulnerable among us. I hope you will see these words not as a reason to get angry or defensive, but rather as  a passionate call for action - a rallying call on behalf of the best cause of them all, something we can all agree is worth protecting  - our children.   Thank you for your continued support of Bixby Schools.   Respectfully,   Rob Miller Superintendent

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