August 13, 2021 Message from McDaniel | Masks Required for OKCPS
Dear OKCPS Families & Staff,
As I’ve said from the beginning, the health and safety of OKCPS students and staff is always my highest priority. Our district has already invested in a variety of safeguards in order to create layers of protection -- including a focus on cleaning, ionization, self-screening, access to PPE, contact tracing, testing and social distancing to the greatest extent possible. But science tells us that this is simply not enough.
Today, I’ve made the decision to adopt a new regulation that will also require face coverings to be worn on school property, in school vehicles, and at school-sponsored events regardless of your vaccination status.
These procedures which are outlined in Administrative Regulation C-26-R2 (under C-26 Wellness) Mask Requirement to Protect against the Spread of COVID-19 will be implemented as of Monday, August 16 and will remain in place until revised or revoked. OKCPS will continue to provide a mask to ANY student, staff member, or visitor that presents without one.
While Senate Bill 658 prohibits school boards from mandating the wearing of masks, the law does not prohibit the Superintendent and district administration from requiring the wearing of masks by our students, staff, and visitors.
The Experts Agree
Across the board, our public health officials recommend universal indoor masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status, as a way to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, especially when paired with other safety measures such as vaccines, social distancing, testing, and increasing ventilation. It is imperative that we take action -- especially when it comes to the protection of our youngest and most vulnerable students who cannot be vaccinated at this time.
Medical Restrictions Negating Mask Use
Students - If a parent/legal guardian or eligible student indicates that compliance with mask use is not possible due to medical or religious or strong personal reasons, the parent, legal guardian, or eligible student may request an exemption in writing using this form.
Employees – If an employee indicates compliance is not possible due to medical reasons, the employee should be referred to Human Resources to request accommodations on the basis of disability.
OKCPS Campuses Closed to Outside Visitors
To further limit exposure, OKCPS has also made the decision to restrict access to our campuses for all outside visitors during the school day until further notice. This includes volunteers, community partners and members of the media. Parents and guardians may visit the office at your child’s school to conduct any necessary business but will not be permitted to enter other parts of the building.
COVID-19 Testing & Vaccinations
In addition to the mask requirement and other mitigation efforts, OKCPS will once again offer COVID-19 testing for all students and staff starting Monday, August 16.
We are also finalizing plans to provide vaccination clinics at all of our middle and high schools which would allow any students interested in receiving the vaccine to be fully vaccinated by Fall Break. OKCPS has partnered with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD), Variety Care and other local health agencies to offer vaccines to staff members, students and their families.
More details on our on-campus vaccination efforts will be available next week. In the meantime, students and staff can schedule an appointment for free COVID-19 testing here: www.vaxokc.com.
On August 9, 2021, our school board delegated authority to me as the Superintendent to make any/all necessary adjustments to any aspect of the 2021-2022 School Year in response to the constantly changing variables of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Because I continue to believe that vaccination is a key mitigation strategy that is in the best interest of our students and staff, I’m excited to share that OKCPS will use a portion of our federal ARP-ESSER funds to provide a one-time cash stipend of $1,000 to all district staff members who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. District employees will be asked to complete an online verification form no later than November 15th in order to receive an incentive on their March 2022 paycheck. Additional details will be shared with staff as soon as possible.
We Must Work Together
The numbers we are seeing in our city and in our school buildings reinforce that this threat is not hypothetical. In just our first three days of classes, OKCPS has moved from single-digit active COVID-19 cases to triple-digit numbers.
As the superintendent, I am ultimately responsible for the safety, health and welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff. I take that responsibility very seriously, but the truth is OKCPS can’t do it alone.
I am once again asking our students, families, staff and community to join us in prioritizing these things: wear a mask, get vaccinated if you can and quarantine appropriately. If we do, we give ourselves the best chance to keep OKCPS kids healthy and in our buildings. Our students learn better when learning can take place face to face, and we must continue to work together and do all we can to make that possible.
None of this is easy, but I assure you it’s worth it. Our kids are worth it. And, they’re counting on us, Oklahoma City.
Dr. Sean McDaniel, OKCPS Superintendent