TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced school districts can implement a short-term in-school quarantine policy for students exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom.
Officials said, "This means that any student who may have been exposed to COVID-19 will have the opportunity to participate in distance learning in a school supervised environment."
The policy starts Nov. 30 and runs until Dec. 23, 2020, officials said. The new policy is due to the current rise of coronavirus cases in the state.
“We’re issuing this change in policy to provide our school districts with some flexibility following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye. “We have recognized that some students subject to a 14-day quarantine may have lost many essential benefits schools provide, such as a safe environment with adult supervision, nutritional support, internet and technology resources and easier access to instructor assistance. Adopting this policy change will help protect students and teachers from COVID-19, while also providing a safe environment and resources needed for students to engage in distance learning during their quarantine period.”
Officials said after Dec. 23, all data from the in-school quarantine policy programs will be looked at to see the frequency of students who became infected during the quarantine period.
Implementing the in-school quarantine policy is optional for schools, but there are guidelines to follow if districts do follow the policy.
- Availability of facilities that will permit housing of quarantined students in a socially distanced environment, and away from contact with non-quarantined students and staff. Examples could include (but not limited to) a gymnasium, auditorium, or cafeteria. The area must be dedicated exclusively to the housing of quarantined students during school hours. Use of the facility outside of school hours should be limited, and follow thorough cleaning
- Quarantined students shall remain in the space at all times during the school day except for breaks for restroom and outside time
- Quarantined students will maintain social distancing of AT LEAST 6 feet within the quarantine space (with greater distance strongly encouraged)
- Quarantined students will be required to wear masks at all times except when eating
- Quarantined students will be tested repeatedly (at least on days 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, and 14 of quarantine, but more frequently if schools choose), using the Binax Now rapid diagnostic test.
- Tests will be provided to the schools by the OSDH
- Schools must have a CLIA-waiver number, and appropriately trained personnel to collect, perform, and interpret the test
- Schools must report results of the tests to the OSDH daily
- Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 (either at school, or a different test performed by another qualified testing facility) shall immediately enter isolation and is no longer be permitted in the in-school quarantine program
- Students in the in-school quarantine program are not permitted to participate in extracurricular activities; ride buses to or from school; attend after-school events; or be in any other situations where contact with non-quarantined persons is likely
- Schools must be able to provide supervision of students in quarantine. This supervision does not need to include instruction; students will be engaged in distance learning. However, it will require appropriate adult supervision to ensure any student who becomes ill can receive appropriate care.
- Schools need to provide an opportunity for students to get outside multiple times a day. This time should not permit interaction among quarantined students- social distancing is still required. However, it should allow for unmasked time and some degree of individual physical activity.
- Parents of quarantined students must be informed of the requirements of the program, and sign an agreement for their student to attend.
This new policy came as a surprise to Shawna Mott-Wright, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. She said many Tulsa Public Schools teachers are reaching out to her with concerns for their students and their own safety. She said the policy leaves many questions unanswered.
“Will the quarantined children share restrooms with those children and those people not in quarantine?" Mott-Wright said. "Who will be the supervisor in this situation? Will teachers or staff be forced into this role? Who’s going to administer these tests?”
Interim state epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said they're leaving who supervises the quarantined students up to the schools. He said it's just supervision, not instruction, and can be distanced to keep everyone safe.
“We expect the policies to be implemented in a way that does not put teachers at inordinate or undo risk," Taylor said.
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