McAlester school board adjusts mask policy

·3 min read

May 21—McAlester Public Schools adjusted the district's mask requirement policy again.

School board members voted to adjust the district's mask policy during a Friday special meeting — requiring masks districtwide only if Oklahoma State Department of Health lists Pittsburg County in orange or red COVID-19 risk level or if a campus has a positive test.

MPS District Nurse Ruth Rogers said she believes the plan would ensure safety across the district.

"I think with yellow, we could be fairly safe to do a no mask requirement," Ruth said during the meeting.

A campus would have to enforce masks if a student or employee at the site tests, per the policy change. That mask requirement would last at least two weeks before being reevaluated.

MPS tracks and reports districtwide coronavirus data on its website — and reported one student tested positive at McAlester High School on Friday.

That means masks will not be required at the MHS commencement set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Hook Eales Stadium because it will be outdoors. But if rain forces the district to move the ceremony to 7 p.m. that night indoors at S. Arch Thompson Auditorium, masks will be required.

Superintendent Randy Hughes said the plan would extend through summer programs and allows for flexibility at each campus while keeping public safety a priority.

Board President Joy Tribbey thanked everyone involved for their efforts to adjust throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to limit spread.

"Everything changes so quickly with this now and so we're trying to do our due diligence to stay on top of it," Tribbey said.

OSDH's weekly map determines each county's risk level. Counties with fewer than 1.43 daily new cases per 100,000 population are in the green. Counties with between 1.43 and 14.29 daily new cases are in the yellow and designated as low risk.

Orange level indicates counties with 14.29 new cases per 100,000 and is designated as moderate risk.

The agency releases COVID-19 risk level reports every Wednesday.

Board members approved on May 10 an adjustment to the district's mask requirement policy remove the mask requirement if the OSDH's weekly COVID-19 risk level map listed Pittsburg County in the green phase — but masks would be required if the county were listed in yellow or worse.

Pittsburg County was listed green last week and MPS dropped its mask requirement. OSDH listed the county in yellow this week — which meant a return of the masks.

After the board's May 10 decision, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines stating anyone fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing — "except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."

Nearly one-third of Pittsburg County's population older than 16 received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of May 10.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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