Sunrise on new OKCPS school year — kids, parents eager to start

Oklahoma City Free Press
Oklahoma City Free Press

OKLAHOMA CITY ( Free Press ) — Thursday Oklahoma City Public Schools students returned to their assigned schools in the early-morning hours to launch the new 2022-23 school year.

Free Press visited Monroe Elementary in the near northwest of Oklahoma City to watch the arrival of students and some parents along with them.

Katherine Wicks and Brian Peace arrived to see off their daughter who is a third-grader this year.
Brian Peace (L) and Katherine Wicks give one last hug Aug. 12, 2022, as their daughter enters Monroe Elementary, OKCPS, to start her third-grade year. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

What does the first day of school feel like to them?

“It’s rewarding for me because I remember the feeling of the first day of school,” said Wicks. “We’re trying to keep it light hearted and keep her enjoying school.”

“This is definitely the best first day of school so far with no crying,” said Peace as both laughed.

As the district and parents still hope for a new year with no disruptions, both still commented on how the pandemic had sent their whole world reeling just as their daughter was entering school.

“It definitely feels a lot more normal than it did,” said Wicks. “I mean, it still feels weird going back to normal because I feel like it happened so quick, even though the pandemic felt like it was 10 years long. But, I feel like it’s an opening to the end of that pandemic tunnel.”

“New normal”

Dr. Jaime Polk, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools, talked with us about coming out of the recovery year and asked if the district is coming back to something like normal.

“Yes, I think so,” Polk answered. “And, we almost get to redefine normal. Right? So this is an opportunity for us to have looked back to see what works, what does not work, and let’s do this thing better.”
Principal Kandy Bishop waits to greet students as the bus driver opens the doors to let off students at Monroe Elementary in OKCPS Aug. 11, 2022

“Safe place”

In a news conference with gathered media and press at Monroe Thursday Superintendent Sean McDaniel was peppered with questions about safety in light of the horrors of the Uvalde, Texas masacre of students and teachers.

“The first message is that school is a safe place,” said McDaniel. “We know how to take care of our kids. Our teachers are incredible.”

“Safety and security is at the forefront of our all of our minds right now,” McDaniel continued. “You know, we watch the news, we see these tragedies unfold. And so we get calls from faculty, staff, kids, parents, wanting to know, hey, is my kid safe? And our message is, yes, our kids are safe.
Dr. Sean McDaniel, superintendent, speaks to the press about safety concerns for the new school year. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

What we do every summer is we go back over all of our protocols and procedures and we refine them to make sure that to the very best of our ability, we’ve got things covered. So no matter the circumstance, we’re going to keep people safe.”

Principal Kandy Bishop spoke later in the morning about their preparations at Monroe.

“I know the district has provided security measures extra security measures, putting alarms on each exterior door so families can feel safe about coming back into our building,” said Bishop. “So, we just we have our kids here. We’re so excited. And we’re just going to take one day at a time.”

Setting a foundation

Pre-K special ed teacher Ashton Gonzalez was launching into her ABCs and phonics lesson with her class when we were allowed to take a quick look as the first hour of classes launched.
Pre-K teacher Ashton Gonzalez shows one of her students how she is saying one of the letters of the alphabet on the first day of school at Monroe Elem in OKCPS Aug. 11, 2022. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

This year, the district is using the term “exceptional” in place of the longer-used term “special” for students with special needs. And, Gonzalez was all in on the new language for her students.

“This is kind of helping to let everybody know that our students are actually exceptional, not just special, but exceptional as well,” insisted Gonzalez when we interviewed her. “And so, that is really important to me, because a lot of times our kids get left out.”

She said that one of her favorite parts of teaching Pre-K is that she gets to “set the tone for how students perceive school.”

“One of my biggest goals always is to make sure that they love school, and they come to school happy,” said Gonzalez. “So, I just love the fact that we get to set that foundation for them.”

Last Updated August 12, 2022, 1:04 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor

The post Sunrise on new OKCPS school year — kids, parents eager to start appeared first on Oklahoma City Free Press .

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