Update Letter from PCPS Superintendent Shelley Arrott

Mike Seals - December 15, 2020 10:59 pm

Superintendent Shelley Arrott

December 15, 2020

Dear PCPS Parents, Staff, and Community Members:

The Board of Education approved the recommendation that PCPS students return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. If conditions adversely change between now and January 5, 2021, the Board could reconvene, through a Special Board Meeting, to transition back to Distance Learning. I will continue to confer regularly with local and state health department officials throughout the break.

Please be aware, the likelihood of in-school positives is inevitable. We will continue to mitigate rigidly through swift contact tracing, and we will continue to coordinate with the Kay County Health Department as they issue isolations and quarantines. The district will follow the new CDC guidelines for close contacts, which I will review below. We will also require appropriate use of face coverings, watching our distance, and frequent hand washing, while continuing frequent and intense sanitation of facilities. Please note, we will be very rigid with face coverings. Wearing of face coverings is mandated in all school sites and will be strictly enforced. Enrollment in Ponca City Virtual Academy is currently open for those who refuse to comply. We will not risk the health of our students or staff by refusal to utilize a CDC approved recommendation to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the event we do not have enough staff to operate a site effectively and safely or if we reach significant levels of students or staff affected at a particular site, administration will make the decision to transition the site or sites affected to Distance Learning for a period of two weeks. However, it could become necessary to transition the entire district to Distance Learning, which will require Board of Education approval. I fully expect for a site or sites to return to Distant Learning at some point, but we will utilize mitigation protocols to the fullest effect and will take swift and appropriate action when needed. We know we can transition to Distance Learning quickly.

Below are the new CDC guidelines regarding close contacts released and adopted in early December. Ponca City Public Schools will follow these new guidelines.

• The previous quarantine requirement for close contacts to a positive COVID-19 case was a 14-day quarantine.
• Based on the new guidance, a close contact can end quarantine 7 days after exposure if they test negative for COVID-19 and have had no symptoms.
• The test can be performed no earlier than day 5 of the quarantine, but close contact must quarantine 7 days even with a negative test.
• The test can be a PCR or rapid test and should be taken within 48 hours of the end of the quarantine period, but close contact must quarantine 7 days even with a negative test.

• Without a test, a close contact can end quarantine after 10 days and monitor symptoms for 4 more days, equating to the original guidance of 14 days of quarantine.
• Health officials still believe the 14-day quarantine is optimal, and those released from quarantine on day 7 or 10, must always be masked for the full 14 days, except while eating. Our data shows that close contacts typically begin showing signs on the 5th day after exposure, but that is not always the case.

The next item is highly important. If your child tested positive during Distance Learning or tests positive for the remainder of Distance Learning or over the Winter Break, send documentation of the positive test results to Curtis Layton, Executive Director of Human Resources, at [email protected] The date of a positive COVID-19 test result will exempt a student or employee from a close contact quarantine for 90 days from the date of the positive test. The district maintains a running record of in-school positive cases, and these cases will not be reported to the Kay County Health Department as a close contact if the close contact is within 90 days of the positive test results. Mr. Layton will respond that he has received the documentation and we have added the information to our record.

The Board of Education approved the recommendation that varsity level activities will resume on January 5, 2021. I conferred with the BOE and they agreed for varsity level winter sports to practice over the Winter Break. These sports are Basketball, Swimming, and Wrestling. They have very rigid safety protocols and requirements that will be followed. Coaches understand these safety protocols and they will share more information with the students. All other varsity level extracurricular activities may begin practicing, participating, and competing on January 5, 2021. However, if an activity group is in quarantine, the quarantine will stand. We have well-planned indoor facility safety protocols that will be followed, and these protocols will be disseminated to the public soon. The Board of Education is open to consideration for Jr. High activities to resume if the spread of the virus decreases.

I also recommended the Board consider converting the previously approved 2nd Semester Distance Learning Practice Days to In-person Instructional Days. We have had plenty of practice with Distance Learning with the 1st semester scheduled practice days and real Distance Learning Days. The Board approved the recommended change to the calendar. Please make note, students will be on-site for in-person instruction on January18, February 15, and March 12, 2021 assuming a site or the district has not transitioned to Distance Learning due to lack of staff or large percentages of students being on quarantine. Please plan accordingly.

I cannot express enough how the next semester will likely present much unpredictability and change, particularly during the early months of 2021. Please be patient and flexible as we do our best to keep our students in school during this global pandemic. It will be challenging, but we can work together to give our students the best opportunity to be in school as much as possible.

As we continue with rigid mitigation, please understand that every moment we have with our students for in-person instruction and participating in activities is a true blessing during a global pandemic. Understand isolations, quarantines, and Distance Learning for two weeks are likely, so I would encourage you to have plans in place for your children in that event. Our greatest priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members, so we will take swift and appropriate action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Please do your part to slow the spread by wearing face coverings, watching your distance, washing your hands, avoiding large group gatherings, and staying home if experiencing symptoms. If your student is quarantined by the Kay County Health Department, they should remain in quarantine. Quarantine is used to keep someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. I strongly urge you to take safety precautions when celebrating the upcoming holidays. We know from experience positive cases come from large family gatherings, and safety protocols can be put into place to reduce the spread while still spending time with family.

We love our students, families, and community and we are trying to meet the needs of our students, while keeping our school and community safe. I will continue to stay in constant communication with everyone and I will get information to you quickly if things change. Expect at least one update over the Winter Break because I believe it is important to keep people informed.

Thank you for your continued support for the students of PCPS. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at 580-767-8000.

In these times of such struggle and turmoil, please be kind to one another and count the many blessing we have in our lives. Best wishes, stay safe, and happy holidays to our school family and community.

Sincerely,

Shelley Arrott Superintendent, Ponca City Public Schools

 

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