LETTER FROM OUR SUPERINTENDENT

Dear EPS Family,

I am writing this letter to notify you of changes to our COVID Learning Plan. I have never been one to back down from a hard decision when I knew it was the right decision. This is a hard decision. After meeting and talking with respected medical professionals and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, as well as watching how Covid has raced through different classrooms and grade levels, I have determined we need to move from “masks encouraged” to “masks required.” I cringe thinking of the burden this places on many employees in our buildings, but I am convinced it is the right decision to make. The goal is – and always has been – to keep students/staff safe and in school.

This requirement will go into effect September 8 for all staff and students in grades 1-12 and apply to all indoor settings including schools, buses, and district offices. PK-K students will wear their masks when traveling throughout the building and when sitting in groups. Like last year, opportunities need to be allowed for masks breaks. The mask requirement will remain in effect until October 13, the end of the first nine weeks, upon which time it will be reviewed.

Why masks? Masks will help us to obtain our goal of keeping students and teachers in class. When there is a close contact exposure the radius of quarantines decreases from 6 feet to 3 feet if both parties are wearing masks. This reduces our quarantines and allows more students to stay in school.

Student Exemptions:

If a parent/legal guardian or eligible student indicates that compliance with the new requirement is not possible due to medical, religious, or strong personal reasons, they may request an exemption by completing this exemption formOnly a completed and signed copy of the exemption form sent or delivered to the school will revoke the mask requirement. The form can be found at edmondschools.net. Go to the “Covid Updates” quick link to access the form. The individual school emails used to submit the form are on this page as well.

Staff Exemptions: 

If staff members indicate that compliance with the new requirement is not possible due to medical or religious reasons, they may request an exemption by completing the Staff Mask Exemption form. This form will also be placed on the EPS Staff Resources page at edmondschools.net. Staff will not be allowed to opt out of the mask requirement for personal reasons. Today’s decision will stir emotions and create many questions. I’ve tried to answer some of the most likely questions about masks below. Head principals have been involved in this planning as well. They will be able to answer even more questions in your meetings tomorrow.

Will the district be providing “supplemental” adult and child-sized masks?

Yes, school sites will have disposable masks available if students forget theirs or need one supplied for them. 

Will masks be required for indoor athletic and arts events, concerts, contests, competitions?

Yes. All indoor activities will be treated the same as the classroom and masks will be required. However, it will be almost impossible to determine who has an exemption and who does not in such large group settings. Signage will say masks required. Student participants will not be required to wear a mask when playing or performing.  

Will masks be required outdoors for athletics, student activities or recess?

Not at this time. 

Will attendance be limited for any indoor or outdoor events?

Not at this time. Attendance at these types of activities is voluntary. Attendees should be aware that there will be people in the crowd who have opted out of the mask requirement and will not be wearing a face covering. 

Can kids be seated in class according to “opting out” versus “not opting out” to spare those in masks from having to quarantine?

No. Teachers could give students the option of who they want to sit by and adjust seating charts, but it is usually best to assign seats based on student needs for optimal learning. 

Will Virtual Edmond Enrollment be extended due to the mask requirement?

No. Staffing has already occurred for VE. Allowing students to switch back and forth throughout the semester from VE to in-person is disruptive to their learning. 

Are there any other changes being made to the 2021-2022 Learning Plan?

Yes. Most notably, the district has eliminated the tiered plan. The tiered plan was in place for masks and school closures. After extensive consultation with medical professionals, masks should not be implemented once a site reaches a certain level of positive cases.  Masks should be implemented as a preventative measure from the beginning. Also, we have been able to work with the OCCHD concerning site closure and to make smaller closures such as a class, grade level, or team without closing an entire site.

Will the occasional volunteer who enters a school site be required to wear a mask? 

Yes

Where will the student opt-out form be located?

It will be located at edmondschools.net on the home page. School sites should also have the forms on their websites by next Wednesday. In addition, it would be a good idea for all sites to have some hard copies in the front office. 

How should I address the student who refuses to wear a mask or how do I monitor this?

Do not make this a battle in your classroom or in the halls.  It should not take away from instructional time. If a student does not have a mask, and you know they should, gently remind them and then move on. If a student’s refusal to mask is habitual, confidentially contact an administrator for support. There should also be no mask-guilt placed on students who have completed the exemption.  

If parents want to keep their kids at home to avoid exposure, quarantines, or illness, how should that absence be coded? 

The DVAP code is only for symptomatic students, diagnosed positive Covid isolations and exposure quarantines. Schools should allow a family to quarantine a brother or sister with DVAP when notified that a sibling is required to quarantine.  

If a child opts out, how can they be assured that they will be treated fairly for making this choice? 

Mask bullying will not be allowed and will be investigated just like any other reported incident of bullying. Mask issues should not take away from our goal of quality instruction for all students.  

Across the board, parents, educators, and public health officials agree that in-person learning is the best education model for students. Wearing masks, coupled with other measures including getting vaccinated and following proper isolation and quarantine protocols, are key components to stopping the spread of the virus which gives students a greater chance of staying in school. I did not make this decision lightly. I wanted to provide you with a link to statements I have received from our local medical community. I have provided this to help you understand the basis for taking this action today.

By uniting in this effort, we show our students the importance of taking action for the greater good – arguably one of life’s most important lessons!

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our students and their families at this difficult time. I am profoundly grateful for the work you do.

Sincerely,

 

Mask Opt Out Fillable Form 9.2021