Despite the news that many school districts are not opening or closing down, the Grove School district is an exception. In fact, Superintendent Pat Dodson says several districts have been calling him to find out how he has managed to keep children safe while Delaware County was on red alert throughout October.

Grove Superintendent Pat Dodson says his goal is to keep kids in school. And he has been doing a good job of doing just that. 

Despite the news that many school districts are not opening or closing down, the Grove School district is an exception. In fact, Dodson says several districts have been calling him to find out how he has managed to keep children safe while Delaware County was on red alert throughout October. 

Dodson and his team worked on a re-opening plan throughout the summer. He says he is afraid that kids not in school “will have serious learning gaps.” Of the 2,00 Grove school students, about 300 are doing all virtual school and the rest are back in the classroom.  

The Superintendent says he gets hate mail and phone calls every day. One of those incidents involved the Tulsa State Fair. One of the students was exposed to COVID and the parents decided to allow the child to show their animal anyway. The school district called the fair and the child was not allowed to exhibit.  

“Nothing should take priority over health,” Dodson added. Dodson is particularly concerned with his hourly support staff. “While we pay for 80 hours of sick leave if they are sick or quarantined, if it happens more than once, we cannot pay them. It is against state law to pay for work they don’t do.”  

The Grove schools opened as scheduled in August and two weeks later, had to be shut down for two days after cases spiked. The school has an extensive tracing program and requires masks to be worn by all students. Every Wednesday is a virtual class day for high school students to allow the buildings to be thoroughly cleaned. Once a child tests positive the administration reviews hours of security tapes to determine everyone that child had contact with. Those exposed must self-quarantine. 

Not only does the school keep seating charts, but the bus routes have been modified to pick up fewer children on each route and make it easier to trace the child once outside the building.  

The school caseload went from 130 cases to six in a week’s period. The success of the rigorous contact tracing program is working and today there are only 20 student cases.  

The school’s virtual teaching program parallels the in-school curriculum which allows students who must stay home to keep up with their classmates and move seamlessly back and forth between virtual and the classroom.  

 The football team had the same issue and missed two games on their schedule, although they have made up one of those games. 

Dodson noted that he is most concerned with younger students because those students cannot stay home alone placing a major burden on their parents.  

Dodson expressed concern about the upcoming flu season noting that symptoms are similar. He noted that sometimes he thinks kids are safer in school than they are out of school.  

Dodson noted that staff and faculty along with students are beginning to have Mitigation Fatigue. “We cannot let our guard down.” He also said that teachers and staff are physically worn out. Dodson has been working every day of the week since March and only took one Sunday afternoon off until he contracted COVID. He said that his bout with the disease was bad, but he was not hospitalized. However, he worked from home and went to his office at night to sign papers and checks.  

He also expressed concern about “learning gaps.” “Our good students are fine, but the majority of the middle of the road students that usually get C’s and D’s are now getting D’s and F’s. I wish I had more counselors to talk with the kids.” 

He also indicated there are more mental health problems among the children. He is working with a couple of organizations to help the students. “The kids are exposed to so much online They are isolated and not measuring up to the amount of ‘likes’ they see as acceptable can be devastating.”  

For instance, the school will have a Homecoming at the final football game on Nov. 6. But there will be no parade and no dance, just the presentation on the field of the kings and queens.