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.
McAlester Public Schools has created a dedicated confidential COVID-19 Hotline that allows parents the option to report if their child needs to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19.
The number is 918-471-2373 and the hotline is answered by our District’s school nurse.
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 3- 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 Should Self-Quarantine
Contact tracers calculate the appropriate self-quarantine period during which close contacts 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 10 days. School contact tracers can calculate and share the likely date such an extended quarantine would end for family members. There is an option of testing out of quarantine early as long as the contact has not developed any symptoms. Close contacts wishing to test early may test on day five following exposure and if negative may return to school on day eight as long as no symptoms are present.
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.
The District strongly encourages you to 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.
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.