McAlester Public Schools has detailed reopening procedures that include layers of viral mitigation, including face-covering requirements for staff and students, physical distancing, hygiene, and disinfection protocols. The procedures include robust contact tracing for the inevitable COVID-19 cases we will experience throughout this school year among students and staff due to exposure that might occur both off and on-campus.
The district is working with the Pittsburg County Health Department contact tracers. Those contact tracers interview any students or staff members who report testing positive for COVID-19 or having been a close contact, on or off-campus, for someone who tested positive. The contact tracers then work with site staff as needed to identify any close contacts on campus so that appropriate self-quarantines can be instituted and tracked and so that affected areas or vehicles are closed until deep cleanings are completed.
The district is committed to transparency in its procedures while protecting student and staff privacy. Privacy is important for our Buffalo families AND to encourage people to report positive cases.
Our procedures are publicly available, as are our current tallies of quarantines and isolations in effect. We appreciate the grace, patience, and support of our extended Buffalo Family this school year.
Positive Cases and Contact Tracing
If a student tests positive for an active case of COVID-19, parents must report that to the school so that isolation is ensured and for school-related contact tracing and disinfection procedures. No personally identifying information is to be released about the student by a contact tracer in order to protect student and family privacy and encourage people to report positive tests.
Whenever a district staff member tests positive for an active case of COVID-19, they must report that to their supervisor for the same reasons.
Each school has one or more contact tracers, most of whom have completed a certification course from Johns Hopkins. They need to know:
The date the sample was taken that later tested positive for COVID-19.
The date on which any COVID-19 signs or symptoms developed.
That information is used to determine an individual's infectious period so that the contact tracer can then ask about:
Locations and any school vehicles that should be closed until they are deep cleaned.
Help identifying anyone the person was in close contact with on a school campus during that period. The district definition of close contact comes from the CDC:
Being within 6 feet of someone for at least 15 minutes
Direct physical contact (hugging or kissing)
Sharing eating or drinking utensils
Sneezing, coughing, or getting respiratory droplets on another person
The contact tracer can also consult relevant seating charts, class rosters, and other references to identify any students or staff who were close contacts.
Close Contacts Must Self-Quarantine
Contact tracers calculate the appropriate self-quarantine period during which close contacts are not allowed on campus but instead should stay home and self-monitor for symptoms. Contact tracers then reach out to all school-related close contacts to notify them of the self-quarantine period and procedures.
Isolation for Positive Cases
A person who tests positive must isolate and will not be allowed back onto school property until at least 10 days after their positive test OR the onset of their symptoms. Even then, they must have 24 hours with no fever (and no fever-reducing medicine) AND improvement in their symptoms. If a positive student's entire class had to be self-quarantined, the student will not be allowed back until the quarantine for that class is completed, which can sometimes be after the student's isolation has ended.
Isolated persons should check and log their temperature twice per day and log daily any COVID-19 symptoms.
People who live with a person under isolation must typically self-quarantine for the entire isolation period AND then self-quarantine for an additional 14 days. School contact tracers can calculate and share the likely date such an extended quarantine would end for family members.
Students are expected to engage via Distance Learning while under self-quarantine or isolation UNLESS they are ill.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. District restrooms are equipped with soap, which is preferred over hand sanitizers.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, not sanitizer, if hands are visibly dirty.
You should wear a cloth mask or other facial covering when in public and are expected to wear one whenever you must be on-campus.
Practice social distancing by avoiding all close contact with people who are sick and staying six feet away from anyone not part of your household.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick. The district sends home any student or staff member who has a fever of 100.4°F and they may NOT return to school until their temperature is below 100.4°F for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication (Tylenol, ibuprofen) or with a release from a physician.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. See Disinfecting Chromebooks and Computers.
Signs & Symptoms
Coronavirus can cause these symptoms:
a cough or sore throat
fast breathing, shortness of breath
muscle pain or body aches, fatigue
new loss of taste or smell
congestion or runny nose
nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Symptoms that have been seen in kids include:
cough, shortness of breath (reportedly seen in about 1 in 2 infected children with symptoms)
a fever that lasts several days (reportedly seen in about 1 in 3 infected children with symptoms)
vomiting or diarrhea
red, cracked lips
swelling of the hands or feet
What should I do if my child has symptoms?
If your child has any of the symptoms:
Do your best to stay calm.
Talk to a health care provider.
Help your child get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids.
Watch for signs that your child might need more medical help.
Take your child to the Emergency Room if your child:
looks very sick to you
has significant breathing problems; look for muscles pulling in between the ribs or the nostrils puffing out with each breath
is confused or very sleepy
has chest pain
has cold, sweaty, pale, or blotchy skin
Call 911 if your child is struggling to breathe, is too out of breath to talk or walk, turns blue, or has fainted.
How can I keep my family safe if my child has symptoms?
Keep your child home. This keeps your child away from other germs. It also helps prevent your child from spreading the illness to others. If the doctor thinks your child might have coronavirus, the whole family will need to stay home.
Keep other people and pets in the house away from your child as much as possible.
Try to have one person only care for the sick child so others are not exposed.
If your child is over 2 years old and can wear a face mask or cloth face covering without finding it hard to breathe, have them wear one when the caregiver is in the room. Don't leave your child alone while they're wearing a mask or cloth face covering. If your child can't wear one, the caregiver should wear one when in the same room. To see how to put on and remove face masks and coverings, clean them, or make your own cloth face covering, check the CDC's guide.
If possible, have your sick child use a different bathroom from others. If that isn't possible, wipe down the bathroom often.
Everyone in your family should wash their hands well and often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Use regular household cleaners or wipes to clean things that get touched a lot (doorknobs, light switches, toys, remote controls, phones, etc.). Do this every day.
What should I do if someone in my family tests positive for an active case of COVID-19?
If a staff member or student tests positive, call the school and please be prepared to share the date the sample was taken that later tested positive for COVID-19 and the date on which any COVID-19 signs or symptoms developed. You will be connected to a contact tracer who can calculate the isolation and self-quarantine periods and work with you to identify close contacts who will need to self-quarantine.
If the person who tests positive is not a student or staff member, everyone who lives with that person should quarantine. Typically the isolation for the positive individual would need to last for the 10 days after the positive test or after symptoms developed. If the infected person is cleared from isolation, fellow family members would CONTINUE to self-quarantine for an additional 14 days. Notify the school of any students or staff members who must quarantine and for how long. If needed, a district contact tracer can help calculate the isolation period for an infected person AND the likely length of an extended self-quarantine for the rest of the family members.
See the earlier section Positive Cases and Contact Tracing for more details.
How will I know if my child is a close contact?
A contact tracer or teacher will reach out to you to share that along with the length of the self-quarantine and a form letter with specific guidance.
What information will the district release?
The district is bound by FERPA, the federal privacy law. So it cannot release personally identifiable information about any student who is a positive case. This protects personal and family privacy and thus encourages people to report positive cases to the district. Contact tracers are to notify close contacts of self-quarantines without revealing the identify of the person who tested positive. The district only releases numeric tallies of isolation and quarantine cases for students and staffs at the site level. Please do not pressure contact tracers or other district personnel for the identities of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The district cannot release that information.
When would a school be closed due to COVID-19?
When a school has areas that need deep cleaning and cannot be closed off without affecting school operations, the site may temporarily close. If a school site needed to temporarily close for deep cleaning, the district would send an E-Note text and email about that to all district contacts in PowerSchool, with additional text and voice messages to parents at the affected school.
In the event 35% of the student and staff population become quarantined, the individual school will need to close.
When might the entire district go to Distance Learning?
The district's Pandemic Response Committee meets regularly and monitors the county's new case rate and state alert system status, student and staff absenteeism, and the district's contact tracing tallies to determine if any large-scale Distance Learning might be needed across a school or the entire district. In the event 35% of the district student and staff population become quarantined, the entire district would need to go to Distance Learning. However, something that could force the district into a widespread closure regardless of the county alert level would be if it exhausts its substitute pool such that it cannot adequately staff in-person instruction.
Extracurricular activities could be impacted if the county enters a Yellow, Orange or Red status. For Yellow status, all fans are required to wear masks. For Orange status, there will be a limited number of fans allowed in attendance while wearing masks and social distancing. For Red status, there will no fans allowed in attendance to these events. The precise nature of that impact will likely not be known in advance given the large number of variables.