School board approves temporary mask mandate

September 9, 2021 | Featured|Headlines

PONCA CITY — Members of the Ponca City School Board held a special meeting today in which they approved a motion allowing a temporary mask mandate in the school district that begins tomorrow.

On Wednesday, a judge approved a temporary injunction that will put Oklahoma’s ban on school mask mandates on hold. 

Oklahoma County District Judge Natalie Mai granted the injunction against the law which took effect in July because the ban applied to public schools but not private schools.

As a result, changes to the Ponca City’s return to lean plan were made that call for a mask mandate with three options available for opting out. They are medical, religious and sting personal beliefs.

Superintendent Shelly Arrott issued the following press release after the board meeting.

Last week was a difficult week with the number of in-school COVID-19 positive cases.  We ended the week of August 30, 2021, with 61 in-school positive cases and 480 close contacts. This data far exceeds our highest numbers from last year.  The week of January 18, 2021 was the week we had the most positives last school year.           

In-School Positives   Close  Contacts

Week of Aug. 30       61     480

Week of Jan. 18       35     420

To analyze this data further, below are the number of in-school positives we had last year from the first day of school to September 3rd, compared to the number of in-school positives we have had this year since the first day of school to Sept. 3

Last year was 18 this year 125.

As you can see, WE MUST mitigate these staggering numbers and KEEP students in school as safely as possible to accommodate their academic and social emotional needs.  We have seen more spread among students and staff this year and are having difficulty managing contact tracing. 

With the injunction of SB 658 being filed, the Ponca City Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously, with the injunction of SB658, to institute a mask requirement for anyone entering a PCPS indoor facility during our normal school day operating hours for the increased safety, physical, and mental health of our staff and students. 

However, there will be an opt-out provision for medical reasons, religious reasons, or strong personal beliefs. 

The mask requirement becomes effective Friday, Sept. 10.  

The mask exemption opt-out form may be found at www.pcps.us. Opt-out forms must be signed and brought to each child’s school site office by a parent/legal guardian or the student if they are 18 years or older. 

A form will have to be completed for each individual child and taken to the appropriate site.  Masks will be available for Ponca City students, staff, and visitors upon request. 

The mask requirement could reduce our number of close contact quarantines exponentially. 

If BOTH the positive case and close contact are masked in the classroom, it reduces the radius of close contacts from 6’ to 3’ based on OSDH guidance.  

Potentially, there could be NO close contacts/quarantines in the classroom if students are masked and more than 3 feet apart.  The unmasked close contact radius remains at 6 feet or more.  Positive cases will still have to isolate whether they are masked or not. 

Keep in mind this is a TEMPORARY mask requirement, but it is our highest priority to keep our kids safe and IN SCHOOL.  

Please help us get through what is hopefully the peak of the highly communicable Delta variant, so we can get to the other side of this wave.  Our students deserve every opportunity to participate in academic and extra-curricular activities. 

OSDH close contact quarantine exemptions are: 

1.  Fully vaccinated – 14 days have passed since the completion of the vaccination process.

2.  Close contact has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.                                                          

3.  If both students are masked in the classroom setting, the radius for close contacts reduces from 6 feet to 3 feet.  If close contacts and positives are both masked, they will not have to quarantine if they are 3 feet apart. 

Please do everything you can to help us get through this Delta wave with limited interruptions for our students and to protect the health of our students and staff.  We will continue to host events and make modifications as needed.  Thank you for your patience and grace as we navigate this variant of COVID-19. 

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