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McAlester schools to reopen amid state-high COVID-19 rate

McAlester schools will require masks for all students and staff when they return. The district offers a full-time virtual curriculum as an alternative to in-person schooling.

The high rate of COVID-19 in the area is a result of community spread, and it is not restricted to a particular industry or the nearby Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Montgomery said.

Pittsburg County recorded 45.81 cases per 100,000 people last week, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s weekly report. The state recommends schools close once a county reaches 25 cases per 100,000.

Instead, McAlester schools will return a day early on Tuesday. The district will organize students alphabetically into two groups that will split in-person classes for the first week of school.

The McAlester school board approved the plan during a virtual meeting conducted over Zoom at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Group 1, which is all students whose last names start with A-K, will attend in person Tuesday and Wednesday. Group 2, names starting with L-Z, will come to school Thursday and Friday. All McAlester students will return together on Aug. 31 for the full school week.

Superintendent Randy Hughes said the district could resume a split schedule later in the school year if necessary, but “that’s not our goal. We don’t want to do that again.”

“We just feel like this is the safest thing to do these four days, just to go half at a time, get the procedures down, and the kids kind of get an idea of what’s going on,” Hughes said during the school board meeting.

(Story continued below…)

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