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Few mask opt-outs at TPS, Union amid school district recommendations
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Few mask opt-outs at TPS, Union amid school district recommendations

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Council Oak Masks (copy)

A child wearing a mask heads to Council Oak Elementary School for classes. Tulsa Public Schools has granted 155 mask exemptions or less than 1% of the district’s enrollment.

The five school districts in the immediate Tulsa metro area with mask requirements are seeing some variation among their opt-out rates.

Since Labor Day, school leaders at Glenpool, Jenks, Union, Tulsa and Claremore have all implemented mask requirements for staff and students. In accordance with a temporary injunction granted by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Natalie Mai, all five districts allow parents to request in writing that their children be exempted from the mask requirement due to medical concerns, religious beliefs or strongly held personal convictions.

As of Friday, Tulsa Public Schools has granted 155 mask exemptions with 22 requests still pending, or less than 1% of the district’s enrollment. To date, TPS has not denied any exemption requests.

Citing those pending applications, a district spokeswoman declined to provide a campus-by-campus breakdown of the requests.

According to COVID-19 data released Friday afternoon, TPS has 56 confirmed cases among students and staff through 5 p.m. Thursday, down 45 from the previous week. With seven reported cases, Rogers Middle and High School was the only campus to have more than five confirmed cases of COVID-19.

TPS also had 297 close contact exposures among students and staff, with 88 exposures reported just at Walt Whitman Elementary School.

As of Wednesday, 909 students at Union Public Schools have opt-out forms on file, or about 6% of the district’s total enrollment. Of those 909 requests, 224 are from students attending Union High School, or 6.8% of the campus’ enrollment.

At 13.6% each, Moore and Peters Elementary Schools have the highest opt-out rates among Union’s schools, while Ellen Ochoa has the lowest at 1.9%.

Union reported 129 cases among its students and staff as of the close of business Friday, a decrease of more than 50 cases since the district set a new one-day record on Sept. 8 of 181 cases. Its mask requirement took effect on Sept. 15.

However, the three other Tulsa-area districts with mask requirements are seeing exemption requests at a much higher rate.

At Glenpool, 15% of students have opted out to date. Unlike the other four area districts, Glenpool’s mask mandate applies to students in third grade and up. As of Friday, the district had eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 people in quarantine.

At Jenks, 16.8% percent of students have opted out of the district’s mask requirement. As of Friday afternoon, the district has 46 reported cases of COVID-19 among its students and staff.

The most recent district to implement a mask requirement, Claremore Public Schools has a districtwide opt-out rate of 28%. Its mask mandate took effect Wednesday after the district updated its COVID-19 case counts.

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Video: How long might Oklahoma have COVID-19 ‘population immunity?’

An epidemiologist explains his modeling showing 78% of the state may now have some virus protection through Thanksgiving.

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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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