August 4, 2021
Dear BPS Families,
The last few weeks have gone by quickly and we are just 12 days away from the start of school. Our teachers and staff are eager to welcome your students back and are focused on making this a fantastic school year!
As we shared in our last update, Bixby students will begin the year in cohorts as they did last August. This model proved to benefit students, families, and teachers in many ways by allowing them to begin the year in a smaller setting. Students with last names A-K will report to school on August 16th and 17th while students with last names L-Z report on August 18th and 19th. ALL students will report on August 20th for a full day of school (not early release). There are no requirements for students when their cohort is not in session. For blended families with children in different cohorts, please contact your site principal(s) to make arrangements to allow them to be on the same schedule.
We obviously are very concerned with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, largely due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant across our state. New COVID cases in Tulsa County have exploded from just 361 per week on July 6 to 2,337 today, an increase of 650% in a month. In mid-June, all Tulsa County zip codes were classified as low risk for spread (green) on the Tulsa County Health Department’s COVID dashboard. Today, three out of four zip codes in our area are at the severe or extreme risk of spread (red or dark red), including Bixby. Statewide hospitalizations are mirroring this surge, with the three-day average reaching 841, with 246 of these cases in intensive-care units - levels that haven’t been seen since February.
This latest variant differs from previous strains of COVID in that it appears to be more transmissible and affects a higher percentage of younger individuals. ICU numbers are at their highest-ever levels for Oklahomans ages 18 to 35 and 36 to 49. It is important to remember that while the COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone age 12 and older, we still have approximately 4,000 children in BPS who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
With vaccination rates still below 50% for most age groups across our state and county, coupled with fewer community mitigation efforts, it seems likely these numbers will continue to grow, at least in the near-term. In light of these new concerns, we have decided to modify some of our current protocols to allow us to reopen our schools safely and to minimize the potential for exposure for students and staff. By implementing a few common-sense, hopefully, temporary measures, we seek to restrain the spread of COVID in our schools and enhance our ability to sustain in-person instruction for students. Below is a summary of the current procedures and protocols. The complete document can be accessed on the BPS web page.
Masking - In accordance with Senate Bill 658, masks will be optional for students and employees. While not required, we support the right of students and staff to wear a mask or face covering due to personal health concerns and/or the inability to maintain recommended physical separation in the school setting.
Vaccinations - We support the CDC’s recommendation that children ages 12+ be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to school and encourage parents to consider taking advantage of the many resources for free vaccinations locally.
COVID notifications- To effectively manage the spread of COVID in our schools, it is essential that BPS staff and parents report all positive cases as quickly as possible. Individuals who are positive will be required to isolate in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Contact tracing and quarantine - When notified of a positive case, the district will conduct contact tracing and notify students and employees who have possibly been exposed. At this time, quarantines will not be issued; rather, exposed individuals should closely monitor symptoms and seek medical advice or COVID testing if they become symptomatic.
Handwashing and cleaning - Hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations will be available at all sites; disinfectant cleaner and wipes will be placed in classrooms; and custodians will continue the use of electrostatic sprayers in our buildings.
Limited building access - Regrettably, the recent surge has prompted the district to maintain last year’s restrictions for non-BPS employees in our buildings. This is very disappointing as we value the support and involvement of our families in our schools and had looked forward to a normal reopening. However, until the latest surge of cases subsides, the district will continue to limit access for non-BPS employees. This means that we will again be conducting our Meet the Teacher events virtually this year and that parents will not be allowed to walk students into classrooms on the first day of school. These guidelines also apply to volunteers and classroom visitors and will be in effect until weekly new case counts return to the moderate risk stage (yellow) for two consecutive weeks. We will be scheduling building walk-throughs at each of our sites to allow students to locate their classroom(s) and familiarize themselves with the building layout prior to the first day of school. Our site principals will share additional information relative to these walk-throughs, site schedules, school supplies, and other start-of-school procedures tomorrow.
We understand that these guidelines may cause frustration among members of our school community. It is certainly not what we had hoped for as we began planning a few weeks ago. Because of this latest surge, the district has also postponed our district-wide teacher “Welcome Back” event, as well as scaling back some of our professional development sessions for teachers. This is being done to increase our chances for a safe and successful restart of school. Our school family has endured many disruptions and challenges over the past sixteen months. We are committed to doing all we can to keep our schools open and minimize the need to pivot to distance learning in the future.
I am honored to serve in a community that consistently demonstrates strength, resiliency, and compassion. With your support, we will power through this latest challenge and continue to serve our children in the outstanding manner our families have grown to expect.