Most storm shelters in county to open if needed

KEVIN HARVISON | Staff file photoHartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Jason Lindley says he will open the event center/storm shelter despite coronavirus concerns.

An employee at Hartshorne Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19, school officials announced Thursday.

After students returned to start the school year on Monday, HPS Superintendent Jason Lindley said Thursday an employee contacted the district about testing positive for the virus. Lindley said the district followed sanitation protocols that he believes will keep everyone safe.

“I don’t think shutting down the school is the appropriate way to handle it,” Lindley said. “We’re going to continue to offer traditional, blended and virtual education for our students. I feel like the parents who have chosen traditional trust us to do what we said we would do and I feel like we have done that in this case.”

Oklahoma State Board of Education members voted in July to highly recommend everyone on school campuses wear protective face coverings instead of mandating its statewide.

Lindley said the HPS Board of Education voted to follow the OSDE recommendations and did not mandate protective face coverings.

“It was strongly recommended — the same way it came down from the State Board of Education,” Lindley said.

Documents outlining the HPS education options for the 2020-2021 academic year state students and staff on campus must social distance as much as possible and procedures will be adjusted to observe guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The plan states “masks and gloves will not be required unless the stat of Oklahoma, CDC or OSDH mandate them” but allows anyone to wear them to do so.

It states hand sanitizer will be accessible and the district will spray disinfectant “facilities each day with sanitizer that has been approved for COVID-19.”

OSDH reported Thursday there were 46,103 total cases, 38,655 assumed recoveries, 638 deaths and 6,810 active cases statewide.

Pittsburg County had 395 total cases, 211 assumed recoveries, four deaths, and 180 active cases, OSDH reported Thursday.

Lindley said his son, who is in eighth grade at HPS, will be attending Friday and he believes in the protocols in place at the school.

He said anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms “or we feel like there’s a possibility of them testing positive” is removed from the classroom. He said if that person is a school employee, they must leave the campus immediately. He said if that person is a student, they must wait for a parent or guardian from an isolation room.

Lindley said the employee left the campus after notifying administrators that “they weren’t feeling well.” He said the district blocked off all areas in which the employee had spent more than 15 minutes, disinfected those areas, and closed them for 24 hours.

“We have a pretty good relationship and understanding with our employees,” Lindley said. “They’ve all been very supportive of the measures we’ve put in place. Obviously the ones that had reservations, we tried to address those to the best of our ability. But that being said, we expected the employee would contact us when the results came back and not make us wait for the health department.”

In addition to the tradition education model, Hartshorne also offers virtual and blended options.

The following is a full release from the district:

“We have been notified that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. Disinfecting protocols have been followed and OSDH will perform contact tracing. state health department will be in touch with the person who tested positive and they will determine if anyone else needs to quarantine contacted by the employee

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

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