February 26, 2021
Dear BPS Families,
In my last COVID update four weeks ago, I described the steps our district was following to keep students and staff healthy and at school during the most recent COVID surge. At the time, we had no idea Oklahoma was about to experience a historic weather event that would cause us to transition back to distance learning for nine additional days. Suffice it to say, it has been a very difficult month and year for BPS families, students, and school staff.
I have expressed my appreciation to you many times over the past few months, yet I need to say “thank you” again. BPS teachers and staff are enormously grateful for your continued patience and understanding as we navigate these challenging months together. At the same time, we recognize there are limits to that degree of support, so we remain very attuned to how our decisions may impact families.
Earlier this week, we were excited to announce that we were able to secure an agreement with a third-party vendor, Total Wellness, to administer nearly 400 doses of COVID vaccine to our employees next Wednesday. Because of the logistics in vaccinating this many individuals in a relatively small window of time, we made the decision to move students to distance learning for that day to provide the flexibility needed to accomplish this.
It’s understandable that some may be frustrated and upset by yet another day of at-home learning. I am sorry for the inconvenience this decision will create for many parents. This event was scheduled so we could avoid having to manage significant numbers of teachers being absent over a period of weeks to obtain their vaccinations. This scenario would have likely created gaps in substitute coverage and possibly triggered decisions to move schools to distance learning unexpectedly and on short notice.
By getting the majority of our employees vaccinated at one time, we hope to keep any future distance learning days to a minimum. However, we anticipate needing to schedule one, possibly two, additional DL days in the future (late March or early April) when our employees receive their second dose, to address absences due to adverse effects from the vaccine.
The positive news is that once we have the majority of BPS staff vaccinated, the need to quarantine staff members due to exposure will be greatly reduced. While COVID cases will continue to cause some students to be isolated or quarantined, our ability to keep our teachers in the classroom should allow for fewer disruptions to learning over the ensuing months.
There are more reasons for optimism. As you are likely aware, our state and nation are also experiencing a strong downward trend in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past few weeks. As shown in today’s district COVID Dashboard, we are down to only 8 positive cases and 45 student quarantines in Bixby as of Thursday afternoon. This is down from nearly 50 positive cases and 950 quarantines just a month ago. New case counts for Tulsa County have also declined from 95 cases per 100K people just six weeks ago to 27 cases/100K today. The number of Oklahoma counties at the highest alert level of RED is now only two, down from 70 counties in January!
These latest numbers are very encouraging and provide some much-needed hope that the worst of this pandemic may be behind us. Yet, we cannot become complacent based solely on a few weeks of positive data. As a school district, we will persist in doing all we can to keep our students, families, and staff healthy through the remainder of the school year. With your continued support, we are optimistic for a great spring and look forward to the wonderful end-of-year activities and events we enjoy so much.