During public participation at the September 9 board meeting, community members asked several questions about the district’s Covid-related protocols. While many of the questions raised have been previously answered in emails to parents, the board felt as if others required a more in-depth answer which can be found below:
What is the District Doing to Support Students’ Mental Health at This Time?
Edmond Public Schools uses several evidence-based programs with a proven track record of sustainable results. These programs equip our educators to integrate social-emotional learning, discipline, and self-regulation in the classroom, helping to enhance students’ inner strength and resilience. For a comprehensive list go to https://edmondschools.net/parents-students/resources/
EPS has added five additional school counseling positions at the elementary level and one counselor for Virtual Edmond. This has allowed an increase in direct services to students. The elementary school counseling program provides lessons and instruction to students on recognizing and managing one’s emotions, coping skills, conflict resolution, positive relationships, well-being, and belonging.
EPS has added a Student Assistance Counselor at the MS level. This counselor focuses on a program called Project ALERT and Botvin Lifeskills Groups. Project ALERT is a substance abuse prevention education, motivating students against drug use, skills and strategies to resist drugs and establish refusal and increase well-being protective factors which equip students with their mental health coping skills and help-seeking behaviors. The 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students receive direct instruction in this curriculum.
In addition, EPS is piloting a resiliency curriculum called “Success Highways” in middle schools. The assessment looks at increasing the six resiliency skills of; connectedness, stress, health and well-being, intrinsic motivation, academic confidence, and valuing education. This curriculum is being rolled out through advisory by teachers and allows for a deeper connection with an adult at school and relationships with peers. Guided conversations and activities around resiliency skills create a community as students move through adolescence changes in addition to the collective trauma covid-19 presents to both students and teachers. In addition, the program is being piloted in 9th-grade.
We have added a 9th-grade counselor at each high school to better balance caseloads among all high school counselors. This means we moved from domain-specific to holistic school counseling. Students see a school counselor for all needs, Social-Emotional, Career, and Academic. This allows students to have more access to a school counselor as the caseload has been reduced from 600-650 students to 375-450 students.
Will the District Accept Antibody Test Results to Limit Student Quarantines?
According to public health experts, antibody tests look for the presence of antibodies, which are proteins made in response to infections. Antibodies are detected in the blood of people who are tested after infection; they show the body’s efforts to fight off a specific infection. What is known about the Covid virus and its mutations changes rapidly. Interim guidance about antibody testing published by public health officials on 3/17/21 has yet to become official guidance. Public health officials say they do not have enough information yet to say how protected someone might be from being infected again if they have antibodies to the virus. Confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection with the virus, although rare, have been reported. Because of this, public health officials do not currently recommend using antibody tests to allow someone to return to work or school or to group individuals together in settings such as schools or dorms. In addition, the OCCHD tells us that interim guidance generally does not apply to high-risk settings such as schools. This interim guidance is specifically for low-risk situations at this time.
There is also an established reason why public health officials have not begun to add this interim guidance to health department policies and that reason is found in the following statement found under the section “Interim Recommendations for Use of Serologic Tests”
Natural acute infection from SARS-CoV-2 is determined best by diagnostic testing using a nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test. Resolving or previous infection is best determined by serologic testing that indicates the presence of antibody. Accumulating evidence suggests that natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 with subsequent development of antibodies may confer some level of immunity for at least 3 months. However, the robustness and durability of immunity following natural infection remain unknown, as does how it compares to vaccine-induced immunity. These recommendations will be updated as new information becomes available.
Does the Mask Requirement Have any Correlation to Receiving Federal Money – ESSER Funds?
The decision to require masks at EPS was based on the number of COVID cases and quarantines in our schools at the time. There is considerable debate about whether masks are required to receive ESSER funds. In one section of the federal requirements, it states that we must “include” masking in our Return to Learn plan. In our current Return to Learn plan, we are requiring masks (with opt-outs for personal, medical, and religious reasons), until October 13 at which time the need for masks will be reevaluated. We feel we are meeting the federal requirement not by requiring masks but rather by including masking in our overall Covid safety plan.