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MPS first to implement in-school quarantine system

Mustang Public Schools’ Board of Education approved allowing an in-school quarantine pilot program to begin Monday.
The board made the decision at the Nov. 24 special meeting, making them the first district in Oklahoma to accept the program.
The program, which is made possible for the district through a partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Canadian County Health Department, is entirely voluntary for Mustang High School students, staff and faculty. Its end date is Dec. 23.
Since MPS students are still remote learning, director of communications Kirk Wilson said students will be eligible to participate in the program at the earliest next week.
Superintendent Charles Bradley said goals of the program include producing more data and seeing how effective masks are to make informed decisions.
The pilot program will allow students, who have been exposed to COVID-19 at the high school, to participate by taking a series of tests.
“There’s another layer of certainty that was missing from it and that is the testing of the students, who have been quarantined, so (with) the in-school quarantine program, these students would be tested,” Bradley said.
Those who choose to participate will arrive at 8:45 a.m. at the high school’s K building located on the east side of the campus.
Upon arrival, students will be tested inside Room K111. The test that will be administered is the Binax Now rapid diagnostic test, which produces results within 15 to 30 minutes.
This rapid test is different from the PCR tests in that the swab is inserted into the tip of the nose, rather than toward the back of the passageway, said Jan Fox, CCHD regional administrative director.
Voluntary nurses, staff and/or faculty members will be trained on how to administer the tests. As of Tuesday, all nine of the district’s nurses were trained.
With COVID-19 vaccines expectedly coming to the county health department the first week of December, Fox said she is unsure if county nurses will be available to administer tests.
“Its positivity percent reliability is 84% and its negative percent reliability is 100%,” Fox said.
Testing throughout the program will occur daily.
Fox said the test was designed for a layman to be able to effectively test themselves, so students could administer the test with adult supervision.
Lead nurse Tammy Kain said her nurse staff will process the tests.
“One advantage of testing over and over, every single day, is that we’re going to have a better understanding of the test itself,” Fox said. “We’re also going to know when a kid might turn positive.”
The students will then move to Room K113 if they test negative.
If they test positive, they must leave campus immediately after taking a recommended PCR test and remain in isolation for 10 days. Quarantining is different from isolating; in that it is 14 days.
“It’s going to keep all the other kids safer,” Fox said. “A lot of times, they get quarantined and they’re never tested — they come back to school and perhaps they’re exposing other kids. This will, I guess, guarantee or ensure they’re actually home isolated, where they need to be.”
If the PCR test comes back negative, the students can return to the program.
Throughout the program, students will be monitored by a nurse, staff or faculty member. They will also be provided daily meals and have access to a Chromebook.
Virtual learning will continue while in the program.
“What they would do at home, they’re now doing in a classroom on our site,” Bradley said.
Restroom breaks and outside time, where students will be allowed to remove their masks, while still maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing, will also be allotted. The school day for students within the program will end at 3 p.m.
Students who choose to participate may not be involved in extracurricular activities and cannot ride the bus to, or from school. Wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing will be required at all times inside the program’s classrooms, as well.
These requirements were designated by the state epidemiologist.
The high school has six classrooms that could be made available for the program. Ten to 15 students would be allowed in each classroom, with one monitor.
The two-week time frame of collecting data opened some concerns from board members, in terms of if it will be enough to make decisions. MHS Principal Kathy Knowles said she is worried about finding willing staff to volunteer, as they have much on their plates with virtual learning; however, she’s in support of the program. Staff and faculty who choose to volunteer will have the option of stepping away from the program if it does not work for them at any time, Bradley said.
Once the program is completed and the data has been analyzed, Bradley said it could lead to further discussions about limiting the number of quarantine days required for students, staff and faculty members who have been exposed, while wearing masks, on campus. These potential decisions would be discussed with the state and county health departments.
Data will continue to be shared between the district and the county.
The tests are being provided by the state health department. Fox said there is no specific number of how many the district will receive; however, there is ample supply for MPS, as well as other schools who may wish to participate.
The test count is based on how many students will be involved in the program, she said.
Before school started this year, the district paid $160,000 out of pocket for personal protective equipment for students, staff and faculty, said Jennifer Newell, MPS director of safety and security. She said the cost encompasses cleaning supplies, plexiglass, thermometers and more.
The district also applied for a public assistance grant which would reimburse the cost. Newell said she ordered the supplies about three days before the state gave the district equipment.
The state provided non-medical grade gloves to MPS, as well as gowns and more.
Another extra cost the district will have is paying staff and faculty members to monitor the students within the program, Bradley said.
Newell said they have more than enough personal protective equipment to provide to their staff, including isolation gowns, face shields, medical grade gloves, and KN95 masks throughout the program, as well as after this year.
Other districts across the state will be given the same opportunity as MPS, Fox said.

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