- Oklahoma City Public Schools
Dr. McDaniel's Response to Governor Stitt's New School Quarantine Guidelines
I am very grateful for the Governor’s interest in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) and how we are addressing the pandemic. We are all especially pleased that he has moved our teachers and other school and district personnel into Phase 2 of the state’s vaccination plan.
This afternoon, Governor Stitt announced a change to the guidelines related to the quarantine of school staff and students who have been exposed to COVID-19. The guidance does not appear to follow CDC guidelines and deviates dramatically from best practice as it relates to mitigation efforts in school buildings. While I can appreciate the Governor’s passion and desire to provide an in-person opportunity to all of our students, I strongly believe that these decisions must be made at the district level with ample input from the public health experts that we have come to rely on. Until we hear more from our public health partners, OKCPS will continue with our current contact tracing and isolation processes that align with their existing guidance. OKCPS’ goal from the onset of the pandemic has been to return to in-person learning when it was safe and responsible to do so, and we are moving in that direction.
In his remarks, the Governor attempted to characterize the current academic performance at OKCPS high schools. Unfortunately, the data he used was out of date, wildly inaccurate and very misleading. Like many districts, we have gotten better at remote learning while moving through the pandemic, and we continue to make great strides. Thanks to the hard work of our teachers, staff and certainly our students, OKCPS has seen marked improvement since our first few weeks of school, which is what the data he used today represented. It is unfortunate that in order to make his point – one that I substantively agree with – the Governor chose to misrepresent OKCPS and cast our kids and our teachers in a negative light.
OKCPS has developed a well-thought-out and strong Return to Campus plan that has been created with the safety of our students and staff at the forefront. We have leaned heavily on the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and their team of experts, along with the public health experts and professionals at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), when developing it and we will continue to do so.
Additionally, as part of our Six-Point Safety Plan, OKCPS has introduced several significant layers of safety to our district since the end of the first semester. In partnership with the OCCHD, we now have an on-site COVID-19 testing program for all employees and their families, as well as dedicated contact tracers at all 62 of our schools. Our districtwide air ionization project will be completed by February 1. For these reasons, we believe OKCPS can safely and responsibly bring back approximately 18,000 students in grades PK through 4th in an A/B setting on January 19th. And, as promised, we will continue to evaluate our unique circumstances when considering a return for secondary students in the coming weeks.
To aid in our effort, we ask our community to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands often, and practice social distancing. When we all work together and are vigilant with our safety practices, the transmission rate of COVID-19 will decline, allowing our students to safely return to our campuses.
I do not envy the Governor’s job during these unprecedented times and am appreciative of the work he and his team are doing as we move towards our common goal of in-person teaching and learning.
Dr. Sean McDaniel