Topics related to COVID-19 dominated the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Since the 2020-2021 school year began in August, TPS has reported 110 positive cases among students and staff. These cases led to 1,204 people being quarantined. Since school resumed after Christmas break, there have been 25 cases and 289 people quarantined.

The highest number of cases recently has been at the high school and Cherokee Elementary School. Superintendent Leon Ashlock said they may consider closing individual sites for seven to 12 days and moving those students to virtual learning so case numbers can go down.

Ashlock said he has been communicating with county superintendents, the health department, state board of education, local health care providers, and the Cherokee Nation about teachers and staff receiving the coronavirus vaccine. No timeline has been set, and Ashlock said it all depends on when the government releases enough doses of vaccine.

The board approved wording indicating the district is following quarantine guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will not follow the optional guideline made by the governor. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Jan. 12 that schools following safety protocols, including social distancing and mask-wearing, will be allowed to forgo the mandatory two-week quarantine period for potential exposures.

Approval was given to the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Qualitative Evaluation Waiver and Assurances for the year. Ashlock said the state is allowing districts to modify teacher evaluations due to the pandemic, and this will streamline the process.

Thinking ahead, as well as to what happened last spring, the board discussed the Tahlequah High School senior prom, graduation, and Save-A-Senior. Ashlock said he saw no reason to delay or cancel graduation, which is set for May 21. He said it would depend on guidelines set by the venue, Northeastern State University.

The board agreed the Save-A-Senior committee should present a plan for the after graduation event during an upcoming board meeting. The Class of 2020’s prom was not a TPS function, but was held because of a parent organization. The topics will be put on upcoming board agendas.

The mid-term adjustments for state aid have been announced, and TPS will see a reduction of over $600,000 in aid. Ashlock said the money coming from the second round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will cover the loss. TPS received $1 million the first round, and will receive $3.6 million in coming months. The additional funding will be used for payroll, curriculum needs, COVID-related purchases, site needs, and to give some cushion to the district for future needs.

All agenda items – including consent docket, surplus, financials, personnel, and schedule of encumbrances – were approved.

What’s next

The next regular Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 16, in the board conference room, with a livestream available on YouTube.

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