We continue to see very favorable COVID case numbers and trends in our school district and community. The modification of masking guidelines at the elementary level two weeks ago has resulted in no known additional cases or transmission within our schools.
Accordingly, beginning on Monday, May 3, we will be expanding this guidance to include classrooms at the Middle School and Ninth Grade Center. Teachers will have the discretion to continue to require masks in their classrooms OR adjust their guidelines to allow students to be unmasked for all or a portion of the class period. Again, this authority rests with the teacher. Therefore, students will be expected to comply with the guidelines set by each classroom teacher.
As with the younger grades, masks will still be required on school transportation, during passing periods, and when large groups of students are assembled. Students who travel to the HS and participate in activities with older students should also adhere to masking requirements for those classes or activities.
We have decided to delay this policy for the high school out of an abundance of caution. There are relevant concerns over changing any protocols that might unintentionally result in a student missing a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as participation in a state athletic tournament, prom, or graduation. However, if current COVID trends continue, we will likely extend this autonomy to high school teachers after these events are completed in a few weeks.
I realize some may question why we would make any changes to these guidelines so late in the school year. The simple answer is because we're responding to the data just as we have done throughout the school year. Our current case numbers and trends support a safe and measured loosening of our COVID protocols just as surrounding cities have also allowed masking mandates and other gathering guidelines to expire.
These adjustments reflect the reality that this pandemic seems to be waning, largely due to the fact that many Oklahomans have taken advantage of vaccinations and current community spread is negligible. We also believe there is value in working to transition our district back to a more normal school environment this year, even if only for a few weeks. There is an emotional and mental health benefit associated with taking positive, incremental steps forward from the difficult year we have all experienced.
I thank you for your continued support of our teachers and staff!