Starting Monday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health will allow 14-day, in-school quarantines for students potentially exposed to the coronavirus at school.
The agency released guidelines on Wednesday for the temporary program, which will let students participate in distance learning under supervision and with better access to technology and nutrition resources.
Quarantined students are to be kept separate from other students, masked and distanced from each other at all times.
They will also be tested at least eight times during the 14-day period using a rapid test. OSDH Regional Director Jan Fox said that will provide a better indication of how many kids get the virus after an exposure at school.
"When we’ve been looking at the quarantining across the state, it looks for sure like not very many kids will test positive, but they’re not all testing. In fact, the vast majority don’t test once they’re exposed," Fox told the Mustang Public Schools Board on Tuesday night.
The Mustang board changed its COVID plan Tuesday night to adopt the new program. Superintendent Charles Bradley said the ultimate goal is safety.
"The end goal is five days a week, in-person instruction, and if we can get there through a program such as this, helping collect data, then we certainly want to consider the benefits," Bradley said.
The state will use data from the in-school quarantine program to develop return-to-school policies for the spring semester.
As of Tuesday night, Mustang Public Schools had 134 high school students in quarantine. Bradley says that's too many for all of them to participate in the in-school quarantine program.
So far, students exposed to COVID-19 — meaning they were within 6 feet of someone positive for COVID for a cumulative 15 minutes — have had to quarantine at home for 14 days.
The Frontier reported the state health department on Monday reminded Woodward Public Schools it must follow state guidelines. Woodward's board decided it would no longer require students to quarantine if they were wearing a mask and were exposed to a COVID-positive person also wearing a mask. That's against Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines.