OKC students’ return to school all but confirmed with new COVID-19 data

An Oct. 19 return to in-person learning for Oklahoma City students became far more likely with new COVID-19 data released Friday.

Oklahoma City Public Schools confirmed to The Oklahoman it would move forward with its plan to bring pre-K and kindergarten students back for face-to-face classes on Oct. 19 after reviewing the latest county rates of COVID-19.

After starting the school year Aug. 31 in fully virtual learning, students are expected to return in a hybrid A/B schedule.

The district reported on Monday its Oct. 19 target date hinged on Oklahoma County staying below Orange Level 2 in weekly per-capita COVID-19 data. The Oklahoma State Department of Health releases per-capita rates of transmission every Friday.

Oklahoma County had a rate of 20.7 cases per 100,000 this week, according to the state Health Department.

This is enough for Orange Level 1 under the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s COVID-19 Alert System. The agency recommends schools strongly consider switching to fully virtual learning when their home county reaches Orange Level 2, defined as 25 cases per 100,000.

This week’s data marks two straight weeks at Orange Level 1 for Oklahoma County. Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Oklahoma City schools would continue toward an Oct. 19 return for pre-K and kindergarten if the county stayed at that benchmark this week.

“Our youngest children need to be the first ones back if we can arrange that safely and responsibly,” McDaniel said while speaking with media Tuesday. “They need to acclimate to a school setting, particularly kindergarteners who have never been in a school and certainly our pre-K kids. If we can get a head start for them, we want to do that safely, responsibly on the 19th.”

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