Enid Public Schools Administrative Services Center (EPS)

ENID, Okla. — Enid Public Schools Board of Education welcomed a new member Monday night during its regular monthly meeting, while the district finished its first day of distance learning.

The Rev. Joe Blackwood was appointed to fill former board member Willa Jo Fowler’s No. 4 seat. Fowler stepped down last month after moving out of her district.

Superintendent Darrell Floyd read a letter from Fowler addressed to the board, saying, “Thank you for making my last board meeting much less traumatic than I anticipated. Everything was lovely. The music, the children’s declaration and the kind words all helped.”

During his report, Floyd then discussed the district’s re-entry plan, which prompted EPS students to leave in-person learning for the first time since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will return to school Nov. 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving, if Friday’s report shows the county below 50 cases again, Floyd said.

The district is providing free daily meals to students this week but won’t be next week, Floyd said. Hot spots for WiFi also are available from the district.

Board member Colin Abernathy asked Floyd why the district’s extracurriculars were discontinued Monday after the weekend instead of immediately Friday. Floyd said logistic preparations for transportation and travel had taken precedent.

“I certainly understand the other side of that coin that says, ‘Shouldn’t we start immediately?’ But another reason that went into that is the seniors aspect of it,” Floyd also said. “If they did have some event the following day that would be a one-time event, we didn’t want those seniors to be punished — for lack of a better term — any more than they already were last spring.”

While all students began distance learning from home on Monday, 630 students and staff — 7.42% of the district — are at home affected by COVID-19, with 588 in close-contact quarantine and 42 in isolation after testing positive.

The most cases as of Monday are being reported from Enid High School, with 183 in quarantine — 35% of the district’s student quarantines — and four positive cases in isolation.

Fourteen EPS students are in isolation, while twice as many staff have also tested positive.

Garfield County currently reports 476 active cases as of Monday, EPS’ positive cases therefore accounting for about 8.8% of them.

Most of those students or staff were exposed through community spread that took place outside of school, Maggie Jackson, with Garfield County Health Department, told the News & Eagle on Monday night. Some also may have occurred at school-related activities, she added.

The city of Enid currently does not have a mask or social distancing mandate system.

“Students and teachers are basically carrying the burden more than they’re contributing,” as well as parents, Jackson said.

She said the Health Department expects the county’s 1.1% mortality rate and 8%-10% hospitalization rate to continue as cases increase, but said she wasn’t sure how many quarantines had resulted in positive cases. Fifteen cumulative minutes qualifies for close contact, she said.

Oklahoma State Department of Health’s risk level report on Friday showed Garfield County averaged 67.6 new cases a day per 100,000 the prior week — a jump from 35.8 the Friday before.

In following the district’s re-entry plan, which the board earlier approved from the state’s recommendations, this triggered the return to distance learning.

Jackson said the return to distance learning was a “wise move” regardless of the comparatively low percentage of cases from within the district.

“It definitely will help, and it definitely will be a slowdown,” she said.

EPS’ re-entry plan mandating masks and enforcing social distancing has so far been helpful in preventing potential situations of community spread, Jackson said, since schools were expected to contribute to a high rate of spread as large gatherings of people.

“I am asking my Enid neighbors to do their part and not gather in large groups, quarantine if they are close contact of someone infected with COVID-19, and wear a mask when social distancing is not possible so that our cases slow down and students can go back to school,” Jackson said.

Other items

  • Floyd said the virtual grand opening for Enid High’s gym/performing arts center is set for Dec. 4, the night of the season-opening basketball games. The event will be live-streamed on EPStv, YouTube and Facebook.

The board also approved after executive session Monday night for EPS to join in a mass action litigation regarding school district costs associated with vaping against Juul Labs Inc. Cost would only be incurred at 20% of any awarded funds to EPS.

No other information about the litigation was available Monday, according to district spokesperson Jane Johnson.

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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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