Owasso Public Schools Reverses Stance On Face Mask Policy

Friday, July 24th 2020, 12:36 pm
By: Robert McCarty

OWASSO, Okla. -

Owasso Public Schools now will require students and employees to wear masks or face coverings during the school day when the semester begins.

The district posted on their website saying it will require students from grades 4 through 12 to wear masks each day in school and on the buses.

"Parents, I am aware this letter displays a shift in thinking from previous correspondence regarding face coverings/masks. Deep consideration was given before we made this change," Superintendent Amy Fitchner said within the statement.

The following is Fichtner’s full post on their website:

Dear Owasso parents and staff,
With so much information swirling around all of us as we move closer to the first day of school, my hope is that this letter provides you with some clarity.  
The FAQs that were published earlier in July have been updated to reflect information in this letter. 
Each campus will send more specific information to families before school begins. The elementary schools will be consistent among buildings. The 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Centers also will be consistent among buildings, while our high school processes will be consistent across grade levels 9-12. 
Each morning, our team tracks the data related to COVID. Over the last two weeks, our concerns have increased as we have not seen the change in the data we hoped to see as we move toward the start of school. Therefore, we made the determination to wait for the state health department guidelines, which we received on Wednesday, and the action of the State Board of Education yesterday. Our rationale was that we did not want to change our guidance only for it to conflict with the leadership of either of those agencies. Now that there is resolution regarding guidance, we knew we had to make decisions so that students could be in our school buildings.
The information below is supported by those guidelines and will be in place until further notice. Should the framework for the start of school outlined below change in any way, you as our families and employees will be notified.
Learning at School
It is the desire of Owasso Public Schools to have school in session (in our physical buildings) until it is unrealistic for that to occur. In order for this to occur, our staff along with parents and students will have to display a level of flexibility that has likely not occurred previously for any of us. The number of parents and visitors may be limited and all visitors will be required to wear a mask/face covering.
Learning Options
Owasso Public Schools will offer learning in our school buildings - the method most members of our community know as traditional school.
Owasso Public Schools will offer virtual learning for students as an option for families. For elementary students (K-5), the curriculum for full-time virtual learning will be Acellus. Secondary students (6-12) will use a content management system called Edgenuity. All curriculum for both elementary and secondary students is aligned with the Oklahoma Academic Standards. For more information on these offerings, please visit our Virtual Learning page. 
Originally, it was stated that parents would be required to choose a curriculum for their children for the entire semester. Because all of these processes are new to families, the decision has been made to allow families to review their decisions each nine weeks and make one change per semester. For example, if a family chooses full-time virtual learning to start the year, the family could move to face-to-face learning at the 9-week mark or at the start of the second semester. This will allow the district to plan well for class sizes, staffing, and educational services for students.
“Pivot to Home” is the phrase we will use if school cannot be conducted in the physical buildings in our district. Instruction during “Pivot to Home” will be delivered by your child’s classroom teacher using Google Classroom. Should that occur we will notify parents immediately as we know that this places an incredible hardship on your family, who counts on our schools for both education and care during the day while you conduct the business of your family. Please be considering how you would provide care during the school day, should we have to “Pivot to Home.” We have one “Pivot to Home” day scheduled for September 4th. 
Masks / Face Coverings
Earlier correspondence shared that masks would be recommended and appreciated. Due to the increased cases of COVID-19 in our county, as well as recommendations from our local and state health agencies and the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Owasso Public Schools will:
Require each of our employees who are in school buildings with students to wear a mask or face covering during the school day.
Require each student in grades 4 through 12 to wear a mask each day.
Require each student in grades 4 through 12 to wear a mask on school buses.
Students in Pre-K through 3rd grade will be able to wear a mask, should they choose. The district will provide a mask to all staff and students, however, staff and students can use their own mask/face covering if that is their preference.
We understand that there will be both adults and students who have documented medical needs and that those needs may affect their ability to wear a mask/face covering. We also know that for our younger students and our students with special needs there may be challenges with wearing a mask. Our goal is to work respectfully and graciously with families to resolve these challenges.
Exceptions to the expectations above for students and staff must be documented by a physician or medical professional and that documentation will be treated as confidential and retained in the office of the principal.
Should a student or staff member have concerns about another person not having a mask/face covering, we respectfully request that those issues be addressed with the principal in a confidential manner to respect all people involved.  
No student or adult will be shunned or criticized for any extent of health protocols they take to make themselves feel comfortable and safe. Demonstrating respect is a core value of our district. 
Notification of Possible COVID-19 Contact
Yesterday, our notification protocols were reviewed by the Tulsa County Health Department along with our employee processes and our “return to work” guidelines for employees. These guidelines include the most current health information. These guidelines are stringent, yet appropriate. 
Parents, we recommend you have a plan for care for your students should they not be able to attend physical school. It is possible that an individual student or class of students might be notified that someone in their class tested positive for COVID-19. If that occurred, a class of students could be asked to be quarantined at home for 14 days even though they are not experiencing symptoms. Our district will provide educational support for those students, should that occur.
Parents and the Fall of 2020
Parents, I am aware this letter displays a shift in thinking from previous correspondence regarding face coverings/masks. Deep consideration was given before we made this change. Ultimately, it came down to the current situation in our area related to COVID-19 and the determination that it was wiser to err on the side of caution to protect the safety of our students and staff. Also, we have a deep desire for school to be in session in our school buildings, as that moves us steps closer to a normal learning environment for our students. I hope all of these measures are short term and I thank you for supporting our efforts.
Several traditional back to school items will be modified such as registration, Elementary Meet the Teacher, and Secondary Schedule Pickup. We know that students meeting their teacher, students walking through the school building to familiarize themselves with the physical building, families demonstrating an excitement for the start of school, etc. are all part of the amazing energy that surrounds a new school year. However, we will not have events where large groups of students, families, or staff will gather. Our principals returned to work on Monday and they are already knee-deep in finding ways to make your students feel welcome, comfortable, and excited about a new year.  
Thank you to those of you who shared suggestions and solutions through email. Your words were powerful and are a strong part of the work we are doing. We will continue to work together toward the best possible backdrop for educating our community’s students together.
Parents, we are grateful for your support in helping us re-engage students in learning as we start a new year. We know that there is a wide array of opinions on topics related to COVID-19 and the protocols around it. What I know we all agree on - beyond a shadow of a doubt - is that everyone loves our students and we want them to be well educated.