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Green Country school districts react to new quarantine guidelines

Project Safe Schools
Posted at 4:39 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 19:13:06-05

TULSA, Okla. — Schools in Green Country are reacting to Gov. Kevin Stitt's new guidelines for Oklahoma schools.

During a news conference Tuesday, Stitt said schools that enforce the use of masks and social distancing would not have to quarantine potential exposures unless they're showing symptoms.

READ MORE: Gov. Stitt announces new COVID-19 guidelines for schools in Oklahoma

In a statement, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said she would not support the disregard of quarantine guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ramifications of the pandemic on education have been challenging and severe. While this option underscores the need for mask requirements in school, I cannot in good conscience support ignoring quarantine guidelines from the CDC and other infectious disease experts. There is no doubt we all want our students and teachers to be safely in the classroom, but COVID is raging in Oklahoma. In-person instruction is critical, and so is mitigating the spread of the virus. They are not mutually exclusive.

Tulsa Public Schools and the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association are committed to using science to inform decisions. Both plan to carefully review the studies referenced by the governor and his team.

Throughout the pandemic, our district leaders have been consistent. When making decisions, we use science and data, and we follow the guidance of our public health professionals.

The COVID rates for Tulsa County and all of Oklahoma are at their highest point. In fact, Oklahoma is again a “top ten” state for COVID cases and for positivity rates, and there is no indication that rates will decline soon particularly since we have no state mask requirement.

No one wants our students back in their classrooms with their teachers and peers as much as we do. Our students, our teachers, our team, our board, and our parents are all very anxious to get back to in-person learning safely. We are also committed to the safety of our students, our team members, and their families.

Since we are committed to using science to inform our decisions, we will carefully review the two studies that the governor and his team referenced today.

We need for Tulsans to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands often, and practice safe distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. When we all use these precautions, we can reduce COVID cases and ensure our students can safely return to their classrooms.

Jenks Public Schools said it would continue to follow current protocols that the district has set in place.

The statements by Governor Stitt regarding a possible change in quarantine policy for schools arrived to JPS officials as new information. Like others, we heard all of this for the first time during the Governor’s press conference this afternoon.

Before we change course or make any decisions about modifying our protocols, we must receive and review the written guidance from state officials. Once the guidance has been thoroughly reviewed and decisions for our district have been finalized, we will communicate with employees and families.

We know some will have expectations for immediate change, while others will prefer to continue with existing protocols. As of now, JPS is maintaining current quarantine protocols. Those students and staff members in quarantine should complete the quarantine unless otherwise notified.

Please allow our district time to analyze this new information and act accordingly. We want our schools to be open for in-person learning for as long as possible, and we want to make sure we can do so safely and responsibly.

Bixby Public Schools said it's waiting to receive final guidance from the state before making any changes to its protocols.

Bixby Schools is reviewing today’s announcement from Governor Stitt relative to COVID-19 and school quarantine protocols. We had no advance knowledge of this information prior to the governor’s press conference this afternoon and are awaiting final written guidance from the state before making any changes to our existing protocol.

Should this guidance result in any changes to our current protocol, we will communicate with employees and families.

Students and staff members currently in quarantine should complete the quarantine unless otherwise notified.

Union Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler said they are sticking with CDC guidelines, and the district changed its policies effective January 2021 to be consistent with them.

In keeping with CDC guidelines, Union Public Schools will continue quarantining students or staff who have had close contact with a COVID-positive individual for 15 minutes or more. We require masks of all people in our school buildings, yet we cannot guarantee physical distancing in all classroom settings, so we cannot implement a policy that undermines CDC guidelines. By following CDC protocols, we have enabled students at Union to be in-person as much as possible without compromising student or staff safety. As a result of our strict guidelines, elementary students have only missed 10 days and secondary students only 15 days of the first semester. This has served us well.
Dr. Kirt Hartzler | Superintendent Union Public Schools

Below is Union Public Schools policy to be consistent with the CDC guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued new quarantine guidelines. Union Public Schools will utilize these guidelines for all student and staff quarantines beginning in January 2021. Please read the following information carefully.

There are two new timelines for quarantine if students have been in close contact with a COVID-positive individual and are not showing any symptoms. Your school principal will discuss these options with you if it is determined your student was in close contact.

Timeline 1 - No COVID Test:

The general quarantine period has decreased from 14 days to 10 days. Students who have been in close contact with a positive case can return to school on day 11 if they are not showing any symptoms.

Timeline 2 - Test to Possibly Shorten Quarantine Duration:

The earliest a student can be tested is on Day 5 of the quarantine.

  1. The test may be a rapid test OR a PCR test.
  2. If the test result is negative, they may return to school on Day 8 of the quarantine if they are not showing any symptoms.
  3. Students must present a copy of their test results prior returning to school.

Timeline 3 – Student tested positive for COVID:

They can return to school if:

  1. It has been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and;
  2. At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medications; and
  3. Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving **Loss of taste and or smell may persist after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation

Timeline 4 – Student has symptoms for COVID:

The student can return to school with release from doctor stating symptoms are not COVID related or with a negative COVID test. Student must be fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medications. Students must present a copy of their test results or doctor’s release prior returning to school.

A student does not need to quarantine if they have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days. Proof of a positive test must be submitted to school. If the positive test occurred beyond 90 days from the date of close contact, the student must quarantine using one of the options listed above.

Dr. Jarod Mendenhall, the superintendent for Muskogee Public Schools, said he acknowledges the importance of in-person learning. However, Mendenhall said he does not want to put students or staff in potential danger of catching COVID-19. He said the district would continue to follow guidance from the Muskogee County Health Department.

Yesterday, Governor Kevin Stitt announced that Oklahoma schools following safety protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, will be permitted to forgo the mandatory two-week quarantine period for potential COVID-19 exposures.

Let me be clear, I want Muskogee Public Schools students back in school and learning in-person, and I agree with Governor Stitt on the importance of this model of instruction for the growth of our students. However, I can not in good conscience place our staff or students in danger if they have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The health and safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. We believe that following the guidance of our local Muskogee County Health Department is the correct path for our district. Beginning January 1, Muskogee Public Schools moved to the CDC’s option of 10 day quarantine if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring with continued monitoring through day 14.

This decision was made following conversations with the Muskogee County Health Department. In reducing the number of quarantine days for a potential COVID-19 exposure, although not a significant number of days, gets students back into the classroom quicker yet does so safely.

We are appreciative of the Governor in moving teachers and other district personnel into Phase 2 of the state’s vaccination plan. We are currently working with our local health officials to develop a path for distribution to our staff.

We continue to implore our community to wear their masks, watch their distance, and wash their hands to help slow the spread of COVID-19 allowing our students to continue to learn within our school buildings.

Broken Arrow Public Schools said it would continue following its current guidelines until an official policy becomes available by the Oklahoma State Department of Health or the CDC.

Broken Arrow Public Schools remains vigilant during the ever-changing situation regarding COVID-19 transmissions, quarantines and accompanying guidelines. It is with this effort that we have been able to achieve 75 days of in-person learning for our students and staff, a feat we do not take lightly. We have also taken great care to give our parents/guardians the choice of sending their students to school in person or choosing a virtual educational atmosphere.

In regard to the recent statements from the office of Governor Stitt involving possible changes in quarantine policy, we have concluded that until an official policy of guidance is released from the Oklahoma State Department of Health or the CDC, we will continue to stay the course with our current protocols and guidelines found in our Re-Entry Plan located at []

If new guidelines are released, district officials will analyze the information and reevaluate any possible new avenues for quarantining within the schools. We will continue to practice and encourage mask-wearing, social distancing, good hygiene and overall responsibility in response to this pandemic.

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