Board approves new re-entry plan

Enid Public Schools

Enid Public Schools students will have in-person instruction with masks and social distancing until county numbers reach at least 50 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, the district Board of Education voted Monday night.

Approved 4-3, the new re-entry plan will go into effect on Aug. 24. No alternate scheduling will be implemented in the future; students will continue either with in-person/blended or virtual-only learning plans.

The plan follows Oklahoma State Department of Health’s four-tiered, color-coded COVID-19 alert system for counties.

Unlike much of the state, Garfield County is on an upward trend in active COVID-19 cases, said Maggie Jackson, with Garfield County Health Department. The county currently is in orange level as of Friday, at 24.57 cases per 100,000 people; 206 cases are currently active, as of Monday.

OSDH releases county risk level reports each Friday to show the rate of community spread.

EPS Superintendent Darrell Floyd edited the compromise plan between Friday and Monday’s board meeting, removing the plan for alternate A/B scheduling when in orange level and returning the proposed widened case tier thresholds to OSDH’s own numbers.

Floyd said he did so after hearing from both OSDH and GCHD that they did not recommend school districts expand the level ranges set by OSDH epidemiologists.

Orange level now ranges from 14.40-49.99 cases per 100,000, as the new plan combines the previous plan’s two orange levels — between 14.39-25 new positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in orange level 1, and 25-50 cases per 100,000 in level 2.

A further revision from Friday to Monday also removes a needed board approval to move from one level to another based on a four-week period of trend line data, because A/B scheduling was no longer an option.

A change in tier still will automatically take place, with parents having from Friday to Monday to make any work or child care schedule changes. However, this would only have serious effect moving from orange to red level, as parents already would have advanced warning because orange has a wide threshold range, Floyd said.

The same safety protocol restrictions would apply while the district is in both yellow (1.43-14.39 cases) and orange levels.

Like the previous plan, masks still will be required for all students, teachers and staff in yellow and orange levels, and strongly recommended in green.

Pre-K to third-grade students may remove masks in class at the teacher’s discretion in both yellow and orange levels.

Buildings and campuses will be available but limited for public or extracurricular use until the district goes into red.

Implemented at the district’s July 28 meeting, the previous re-entry plan more closely adhered to the state Department of Education’s statewide recommended plan for schools returning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It included a plan for alternate A/B scheduling, with half the students attending in person and the other half through distance learning during the week, which would have gone into effect had the district entered orange level 1 but drew widespread criticism from parents several weeks ago.

A prior motion failed, 2-5, to revise the district’s current re-entry plan to include recommended alternative scheduling for secondary education only in orange level 2. The motion was proposed by Office 2 Board Member Kyle Abernathy.

Any changes in tier would have required a two-week trend in the opposite direction.

Floyd said EPS and Garfield County Health Department are currently “exploring” possible cases, which he said inevitably will result in temporary campus closures.

“Those are going to happen,” Floyd said.

Jackson said while children don’t appear to face the same personal health risks from COVID-19 as those in older age groups, the risk for spreading the virus remains the same.

“It’s not the teachers who will contribute to the increase of cases. It’s out at our family events, and businesses occasionally,” Jackson said. "That’s why we utilize the county indicators for school.”

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Ewald is copy editor and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @oualexewald.

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