Mustang Public Schools voted to allow students who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine on school premises as part of a program through a partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Canadian County Health Department.
As of now, Mustang is the only district in the state to join the program. Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Hime doesn’t see his district signing up anytime soon.
“[T]he idea of bringing quarantined kids to school and putting them in a room, in a non-instructional setting, with adults watching, doesn’t seem ... safe to me,” Hime said.
The program is entirely voluntary for students, staff and faculty. Those who choose to participate will be tested for COVID-19 once they arrive at school. The test that will be administered is the BinaxNow rapid diagnostic test, which produces results within 15 to 30 minutes.
If the tests are negative, those students will move to a separate room. If they test positive, they must leave campus immediately after taking a recommended PCR test and remain in isolation for 10 days.
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 Chromebooks.
For Hime, the risk is too great for possibly missing just a few days of school.
“It just really doesn’t fit what we’re trying to do,” said Hime. “I think, first of all, you’re still bringing those people in your school.”
Mustang Public Schools agreed to be part of the pilot program because the district is experiencing an increasing number of students placed in quarantine. On Nov. 20, MPS had as many as 800 students at home in quarantine. They have had more than 3,500 throughout the semester.
According to the Lawton Public Schools’ website, 428 total individuals are currently quarantined by Comanche County Health Department due to “close contact.” That includes 389 students as of Dec. 10.
Hime hasn’t entirely dismissed the idea seeing the program at LPS, he and others will continue to assess the situation, he said.
“Maybe there’s some positives in there I’m not seeing and that we might need to look at down the road.”