Mustang Public Schools’ Board of Education approved its first draft of a COVID-19 plan for the 2021-2022 school year at a special meeting June 29.
Bradley will submit the non-binding draft to the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
The draft approves Bradley to move to the next step in July, where the board will finalize the plan. MPS recently received $5.2 million in ESSER III funds.
The district has up to three years to spend the money.
School districts that received ESSER funds must follow certain conditions, Bradley said. They must comply with a Return to Learn plan and submit it to the state board.
There are nine components MPS must follow to be compliant in receiving the federal funds, as well. The
criteria that must be addressed in some capacity within the Return to Learn plan are:
• universal mask wearing;
• modifying sites to allow for social distancing;
• handwashing and respiratory etiquette;
• cleaning facilities;
• contact-tracing for isolations and quarantines in collaboration with state, local and tribal health departments;
• efforts to provide vaccinations;
• accommodations for disabled students and;
• coordination with state and local officials.
The board has until December to make changes to their Return to Learn plan. There are no criteria to update the plan when the board would like to make changes.
The district must also have a spending budget, regarding how it will use the ESSER funds. Bradley said Chief Financial Officer Nancy McKay will present a breakdown of how the money will be spent at the July 12 meeting.
What parents can expect in the fall
The Return to Learn plan looks very similar to last school year’s plan, Bradley said. The board updated the plan June 30 after discussing some areas they would like changed at the June 29 meeting.
The plan gives parents a snapshot of what can be expected districtwide in the fall, Bradley said.
In-person learning is the district’s focus, with blended and virtual options available, as well. Masks will not be mandated, rather optional in conjunction with Senate Bill 658.
All sites will be learning five days a week. They may be closed in the event of a community spread, as well.
The board would have to decide to close a school unless there was an emergency. Vice President Chad Schroeder said he would like to revisit this.
Local health department to contact trace for district
Last year, MPS took on the burden of contact-tracing. Board clerk Stacy Oldham said he would like to see the Canadian County Health Depart-ment completely take on the task, as it is the district’s responsibility to educate students.
“I don’t support MPS getting back into the contact-tracing business,” he said.
Schroeder agreed, while saying it is in the district’s best interest to keep the option of contact-tracing themselves in case of a site spread. Bradley said Jan Fox with the health department recognized contact-tracing was a burden on school districts.
The department will be the lead when school begins, and the district will work alongside them, he said.
“There needs to be an open line of communication,” Bradley said.
Oldham recommended the district also reevaluate contact-tracing for quarantines, as it prevented many students from being in the classroom.
“I will not support anything that gets in the way of keeping our kids in class,” Oldham said.
The district will continue to use the COVID19@mustangps.org email for families to report pending and positive tests, close contact exposures and symptoms, and MPS will pass the information onto the health department, who will notify families of exposures and quarantines.
Data reporting will also be via the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s dashboard at oklahoma.gov/COVID19.html.
If a quarantine has been identified, MPS cannot put exposed students in classrooms, Bradley said. Close contacts must quarantine for 10 days, and students can test out after Day Seven with a negative test on or after Day Five.
Students who have been fully vaccinated, do not have to quarantine. The district can ask students if they have been vaccinated to determine proof of being exempt from quarantining, Bradley said.
They cannot keep a database of vaccinated students. However, since the district is not the lead in contact-tracing, they will not be asking if students are vaccinated.
All students are not required to be vaccinated upon enrollment.
Regarding isolations, all individuals must isolate for 14 days from symptoms or a positive test. People are advised to isolate for a pending test, as well.
If students or staff are experiencing a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, they should remain home. They must be free from the symptoms for 24 hours without medication before returning to school.
Oldham inquired if Bradley had seen post-vaccine data regarding transmission of the virus, and he said he had not. The superintendent said he will look into it.
No COVID outbreaks at summer camps
This summer is being used to look at effects of no masks during camps. Throughout June, there were 1,966 students who participated in the district’s athletic team camps.
Of those, only one positive case was reported, as well as three quarantines. Regarding Bronco Club, throughout the course of six weeks, no positive cases were reported out of 140 students.
“That does not mean the coronavirus was not present, it just means our kids were not sick enough to where they had to go to the doctor to be tested,” Bradley said.
After analyzing district, local and state data, school-aged children are not drastically affected by COVID-19, he added.
Nonessential guests will be allowed on campuses
Visitors will be limited at sites. Each school will address specific scenarios, as well.
“If we can bring football teams in here to have a football camp, we can have a volunteer at Mustang Elementary, reading books,” Oldham said.
Bradley said the difference between camps and volunteers, is there is no requirement for students to attend camps, whereas attendance is a must in class. Oldham said students need as much face-to-face instruction as they can receive.
“Our data now shows we can get back in school full force,” Oldham said. “We owe these kids. We’re still playing catch-up. We’re going to play catch-up.”
Stacy Edwards, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said the number of volunteers on campuses varies. There can be five to 20 per day.
She also mentioned at the elementary level, there are some students who are immunocompromised.
“That’s the population we still have to work hard to protect,” Edwards said.
President Todd Lovelace advised Bradley to look more into the volunteer impact.
The district will maintain its cleaning strategies for sites and buses.
Once principals return mid-July, they will be sending more specific information out to families.
Board ‘OK’ with financial status
In finance news, McKay said the district closed out the fiscal year at 2 p.m. June 29 and she was pleased with the results.
The district’s legal budget was about $91 million, and by the time expenses were calculated, it was approximately $88 million. The expenditure budget increased by $20 million last year from 2018-2019.
The district ended with an 8.29% fund balance. By law, districts of MPS’ size can only have up to a 14% fund balance.
The fund balance absorbed much of the $8 million loss from the state, McKay said.
She said she would be comfortable with a 14% fund balance. The ESSER funds will help build back up the fund balance, she said.
ESSER III funds will also go toward custodial work to keep classrooms clean.
Food costs continue to rise, as well. Meals have increased by 36%.
McKay also noted all districts are experiencing cost increases in food, paper products and shipping of materials.
In consent agenda news, Tom Jackson Photography will take districtwide pictures.
In board news, deputy clerk Jeff Landrith and member Dedra Stafford were absent.