As mentioned in our recent update, the district was thrilled to have had the opportunity to provide COVID vaccines on campus for all staff who wished to participate! On March 3 at our first clinic, over 400 BPS staff members became vaccinated. The positive energy and sense of relief in the room could be felt by all! It was truly a very special day for our district.
Moving forward, our clinic for second doses is scheduled for Wednesday, March 31. Please keep in mind we must work with our provider in this effort and therefore do not have complete control over the schedule. Although we would love for this to have taken place on a Friday, we are extremely grateful to provide this opportunity for our staff.
With that said, BPS will engage in distance learning on Wednesday, March 31, and Thursday, April 1. As you know, many people experience adverse side effects, particularly after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. Rather than be forced to make a last-minute move to distance learning due to possible staff shortage, the district is choosing to be proactive in giving families advanced notice. These two distance learning days are followed by no school for students on Friday, April 2 (school holiday) and Monday, April 5 (staff professional development).
Additionally, in other exciting news, Oklahoma State Department of Health officials announced this week they have opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for phase 3 priority groups, including career technology employees and students who are 16 and older. New appointments for phase 3 individuals have been posted to the state's vaccine portal.
We cannot adequately express our gratitude for your continued support and willingness to engage in distance learning allowing this clinic to take place. We recognize that in-person learning is much-preferred and we are confident the completion of this vaccine process will aid the district in prioritizing in-person learning throughout the remainder of the school year.
Finally, I want to briefly address some of the questions we have been receiving relative to the potential loosening of our existing COVID protocols and procedures, particularly the requirement for masks and restrictions on visitors and volunteers in our schools. We have been monitoring the state and county case numbers very closely, as well as hospitalization rates. The good news is we have seen significant declines in new cases, back to numbers we haven’t experienced since June and July of last year. Statewide COVID hospitalizations are down to just over 300, from more than 2,000 just two months ago. This is all VERY encouraging news!
Throughout this pandemic, we have ventured to be as transparent and communicative as we can with families and staff. You have the right to know why decisions are being made, or not being made. While today I cannot provide assurances about future changes to our protocols in response to the recent decline in COVID cases and the ability to vaccinate our staff, what I can say is that when the data indicates it is safe and appropriate to modify our guidelines, we will.
The next month will be important. What happens after students and staff return from spring break will be instructive. The new CDC guidelines related to individuals who have been fully vaccinated will allow us to adjust our quarantine procedures for vaccinated staff members by mid-April. If we continue to see declines in COVID transmission rates, coupled with widespread vaccinations for the majority of Oklahomans, we are hopeful that we can begin to loosen some of our protocols while preserving a safe and healthy environment for our schools.
For now, we want to continue to follow those practices which have allowed us to push these COVID numbers down and maximize in-person instruction with students. We appreciate your continued support in this effort and look forward to the day - hopefully soon - when we can put this terrible pandemic behind us.