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Chisholm Public Schools. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

NORTH ENID, Okla. — Chisholm Public Schools will follow a new state law and not require face masks on campus unless permitted by the state, as part of its newly approved learning plan for the 2021-2022 school year.

Masks will only be required in certain open areas of Chisholm’s three schools on three conditions: If Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declares Garfield County in a state of emergency; if state and local Health Department officials have been consulted with; and if the district reports positive COVID-19 cases make up 3.1%-5% of the building site population.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 548, which went into effect July 1, restricts school districts from enacting their own mask mandates or requiring “vaccine passports” for school entry. Mandates are only allowed during a declared state of emergency, according to the new law.

If the county is declared a state of emergency, Chisholm would implement a three-tiered system to determine site-by-site if masks should be required, according to the plan Chisholm Board of Education members approved Wednesday.

Superintendent Chad Broughton said 3% of Chisholm Elementary School’s students is about nine children. He said the district never had that many students test positive for COVID at one time last year.

If a district site reports over 5% positive for COVID, the school would shut down for 10 calendar days and students would move to virtual learning.

The longest the district shut down was for five days during the school year, Broughton said Wednesday. That contrasts with Enid Public Schools’ six-week period of distance learning last fall.

Under the plan, elementary students will not be restricted to their cohorts at school.

The district will continue to use electrostatic sprayers in classrooms and on buses, and hand sanitizer will be available in buildings. The district will also continue to track the number of reported positive COVID cases.

COVID vaccines are encouraged for eligible Chisholm students and staff, according to the plan.

Broughton said the new school year’s learning plan must be worded as such so the district can receive a final round of federal COVID relief funding allocated by the state.

Chisholm board member Dr. Dustin Baylor said he believed the plan was worded well for CARES Act funding eligibility, but as a doctor, he disagreed with the general policy.

“But it is what it is,” Baylor said during the meeting.

SB 658 also prohibits school districts from imposing mask requirements for unvaccinated people and forbids vaccine requirements.

Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and Rep. Kevin West, R-Mooore, authored the bill in the state Senate and House, respectively.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to aewald@enidnews.com.

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