Oklahoma City Public Schools
Catch up on this week's Oklahoma education news with our "coveducation" recap. (NonDoc)

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Friday that the district will transition to a higher level of safety protocols after Oklahoma County reported a rise in COVID-19 cases this week.

Teachers also gathered at the Norman Public Schools board meeting Monday evening to urge the continuation of online learning owing to COVID-19 concerns. Parents in favor of in-person learning also expressed their views at the meeting. Although no action was taken regarding the issue at Monday’s meeting, the board voted in a meeting Wednesday to return students to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Education convened Thursday to discuss COVID-19 response and operations, as well as its legislative budget request for Fiscal Year 2022.

Catch up on this week’s #coveducation headlines with the following recap of reporting from Oklahoma news outlets.

OKCPS transitions to ‘orange level two safety protocols’

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced on Friday that the district will be transitioning to “orange level two safety protocols” after Oklahoma County’s COVID cases rose to 26.2 per 100,000 people this week.

These protocols will be implemented Monday, Sept. 28, and include:

  • the suspension of in-person learning for special education self-contained classes until further notice
  • the immediate cancellation of all indoor athletics
  • the cancellation of all extracurricular events and practices beginning Sept. 28.

Meal services will continue with a drive-thru option only.

In order for the district to transition back into a lower alert level, OKCPS requires that a lower rate of COVID cases be maintained by the county for two consecutive weeks.

Norman Public Schools returning to in-person classes

Teachers and students gathered at Norman’s Board of Education meeting on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, to urge the continuation of virtual learning. (Megan Prather)

The Norman Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a back-to-school plan resuming a traditional school schedule that will follow a threat model from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported that elementary school students will return to a five-day schedule beginning Monday, Sept. 28. Middle school students will continue on a hybrid schedule until they return to full in-person school weeks Tuesday, Oct. 6, and high school students will return to in-person classes on Monday, Oct. 12.

Norman Public Schools will only return to virtual learning if COVID-19 cases cause widespread quarantines or if Cleveland County reaches critically low hospital capacity, ventilator supply or PPE availability. The county must also have a per-capita rate of COVID of at least 14.29 cases per 100,000 people.

200 Westmoore High School Students quarantined

Approximately 200 students and staff from Westmoore High School are in quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.

News9 reported that, after close contact, 48 student-athletes and coaches were quarantined. Contact tracing revealed that about 200 students and staff will have to quarantine as well.

A letter sent to parents and guardians of the Westmoore High School football team stated that the school’s football program will be halted until Oct. 1.

Newcastle Public Schools switches to virtual learning

Newcastle Public Schools will be moving all students to virtual learning after the district reported 27 positive COVID-19 cases and 392 individuals in quarantine.

According to a report by News 9’s Katelyn Ogle, students at four school sites transitioned to virtual learning Wednesday. Students at the Early Childhood Learning Center and high schoolers were already doing classes virtually.

Newcastle Public Schools Superintendent Melonie Hau says the district plans to bring all students back to in-person classes Monday, Oct. 5.

State Board of Education hears from epidemiologist

The Oklahoma Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday to discuss COVID-19 response and operations, as well as its Fiscal Year 2022 legislative budget request.

The board heard from interim state epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor who said that over a period of weeks, the Department of Health will be offering the opportunity for county health officials to work with schools in regards to COVID-19 communication.

This communication is currently driven by a statewide system that utilizes text messaging and phone calls for notification. Taylor said that although the current system works well for smaller populations, it can cause inconsistencies and communication errors in schools facing large COVID outbreaks. Taylor said moving that communication step to be in conjunction with schools will allow provision of a letter from the Department of Health for school officials to distribute to parents in a matter they find most effective.

Taylor also emphasized that schools should be communicating with and providing information to local and county health departments. But he said schools should not be sharing personal health information across districts or to other individuals because it can cause inconsistency in information.

The board also discussed and approved its FY 2022 legislative budget request of $3.18 billion. The FY 2022 request includes $18,178,286 sought for counselors in order to meet the recommended national ratio of 250:1.

Most state agencies typically request substantial budgetary increases, even in years where state revenues are expected to be flat or in decline. The actual appropriated common education budget for FY 2020 was $3,070,951,054. This year’s FY 2021 budget saw a 2.547 percent reduction at $2,992,729,814 as the pandemic and global oil prices impacted Oklahoma’s economy.

Chickasha cancels football games

News 9 reported that Chickasha Public Schools has canceled its next two varsity, junior varsity and middle school football games owing to COVID-19.

According to the school district, there are positive COVID cases within the football program, as well as coaches who are in quarantine. They did not disclose any additional information.

Oklahoma education tweets of the week