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Education

Oklahoma City Public Schools Gears Up For Another School Year Impacted By The Coronavirus

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Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma
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Oklahoma City Public Schools briefs the media before welcoming students back to school August 9.

More than 30,000 Oklahoma City Public Schools students will file back into classrooms across the district Monday.

And even though there won’t be a mask mandate, district leaders are doing everything they can to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"We’re going to be smart, and we’re going to be responsible, and we have been," Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a press conference at Frederick Douglass High School in East Oklahoma City. "But man am I excited."

OKCPS will prioritize five-day a week schooling for its students. And the district is implementing a lengthy COVID-19 plan to do so.

One difference between this year and last year will be how OKCPS communicates about quarantines. Students or staff who test positive will be required to isolate from their peers. Last year they were told they "needed" to stay home, McDaniel said.

However, those who are exposed will be encouraged to quarantine and can return to school if they aren’t showing symptoms.

"We've never been able to mandate a quarantine at the school district level," McDaniel said.

However, the district will continue its contact tracing efforts and will notify students, parents and staff and recommend they quarantine from school if they’re a close contact.

"It's a subtle shift in the semantics," he said.

There’s only so much schools can do. Oklahoma is one of a handful of states to ban mask mandates in schools.

Masks will be strongly encouraged — as will vaccines for anyone who can get them.

The district has put in air ionization filters throughout every building, but ultimately McDaniel says he wants parents, teachers and students to work together to prevent the coronavirus from interrupting the school year.

“If they make these choices to mask up when appropriate, to get vaccinated and to quarantine when appropriate, we give ourselves a better chance of remaining healthy in the buildings and staying in school in a face-to-face setting,” McDaniel said.

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