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Claremore Public Schools to require masks
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Claremore Public Schools to require masks

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CLAREMORE — In a 15-minute special meeting Thursday evening, Claremore Public Schools’ Board of Education approved a mask requirement for all staff, students and visitors while inside district buildings.

Since classes started on Aug. 12, Claremore has had 144 students and 12 employees test positive for COVID-19, prompting an additional 24 employees and 1,197 students to quarantine.

By comparison, the district had just over 200 students test positive in all of the 2020-21 school year.

“I don’t believe there will be any change in the guidance from the CDC or the Oklahoma State Department of Health that we have been receiving, so we have to change our procedures,” Superintendent Bryan Frazier said.

Approved by a 3-0 vote without debate, the new mask requirement takes effect on Wednesday and is limited to regular school hours, plus parent-teacher conferences. It also extends to anyone riding a Claremore school bus before or after school or for school activities.

Opt-out forms for families seeking exemptions on religious or medical grounds or due to strong personal convictions will be available starting Friday and are due by Wednesday. However, the opt-out provisions will not extend to anyone visiting CPS buildings during school hours.

“If parents feel very strongly for whatever reason they don’t want their child to wear a mask, then we will allow them to opt out and then move on,” Frazier said. “Our goal is to increase the amount of safety in our buildings, and we are just trying to move that needle forward.”

As approved, Claremore’s mask requirement will remain in effect until the end of the fall 2021 semester, a vote by the school board to change the end date or all the provisions of Senate Bill 658 are reinstated. The law, currently partially blocked by a temporary injunction, prohibits public school districts from requiring masks on campus unless a state of emergency is declared by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to fast-track consideration of an appeal from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

Along with Dove Charter Schools’ two Tulsa campuses and the Cherokee Nation’s immersion charter school, other area public school districts requiring masks include Briggs, Hulbert, Jenks, Keys, McAlester, Ponca City, Tahlequah, Tulsa and Union.

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He said Aug. 30 that Tulsa is fortunate health care systems aren't now asking for the mandate as they had last summer.

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My primary beat is public education. I am a third-generation graduate of Oklahoma State University, a board member for Oklahoma SPJ and an active member of the Native American Journalists Association.

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