The beginning of a new school year is when students and staff eagerly await to be together and experience the fun and excitement that comes along with it. However, once again the district is experiencing another surge in COVID cases and trying to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.

The Tahlequah Public School Board of Education has an expectation that all students, staff, and visitors wear a mask in our school buildings. Please help us keep our students and staff safe and our schools open. The following COVID protocols and mitigations were made after consulting with our local and state health officials, OSSBA, as well as guidance from the CDC.

If a student is sick, parents should keep him or her home and monitor symptoms. Seek medical attention if a child begins experiencing COVID symptoms: fever of 100.4 or greater, sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches/body fatigue, chills, nasua/vomiting, or new onset of severe headache.

If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 you will need to notify their school and provide the school with a copy of the positive test results for the student. Isolation is required for students who have tested positive for COVID-19. Students who are in isolation must stay home and may return to school after 10 days from the date of the positive test and when their symptoms are gone.

Tahlequah Public Schools highly recommends that all students and staff found to be in close contact with a COVID positive person quarantine. Quarantining helps stop the spread of the virus and keeps our students/staff as safe as possible. If a student/staff member tests positive the school will notify parents/guardians of any student/staff that was in close contact with the positive person.

Quarantining is recommended by health officials for anyone in close contact with a positive person. Current CDC guidance suggests a 10-day quarantine, which may be shortened to 7 days after receiving a negative test result if the test occurs on day 5 of quarantine or later. If a parent notifies the school that a student is being tested or results are pending the parent will need to keep the child home until they receive the test results. If the test results are negative, the child may return to school or if test results are positive the child would not return until after the 10-day isolation period.

State and Local Health Agencies recommend anyone aged 12 and up receive the COVID vaccine if they are able and haven't already. Receiving the vaccine is the best way an individual can protect their community.

TPS has scheduled the Oklahoma's Caring Van to administer the Pfizer COVID vaccine, dose No. 1, at the Middle School on September 20 at 9:30 a.m. and the High School at 11 a.m. Parents are responsible to schedule dose No. 2 with local health care providers. Information is available on Facebook and different websites to get signed up for the vaccines. Parent consent forms will be sent out prior to the clinic.

We are all in this together and must consider the safety and well-being of ourselves as well as others during COVID times. Help us keep our students in school and stop the spread of COVID by following safety protocols and mitigations.

Leon Ashlock is superintendent of the Tahlequah I-35 School District.

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