Education , Health

Avant Public Schools moves online as other county schools contend with virus outbreaks

COVID-19 is forcing an Osage County school district to pivot from in-person classes to remote instruction.

On Oct. 1, officials with Avant Public Schools announced that the rural dependent district will be moving to distance learning through Oct. 20 after some of the faculty and students were directly exposed to COVID-19.

Earlier this year, the district delayed the start of classes from Aug. 11 until after Labor Day due to an increased number of cases in its attendance area.

The announcement comes as the county’s per capita caseload climbed into the top five among the state.

As per the alert maps published on Oct. 2 by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma State School Board Association, Osage County has the fourth-highest per capita case count, trailing Beckham, Texas and Woodward counties in far western Oklahoma. 

Osage County has 62.1 cases for every 100,000 residents, which normally would put its school districts in the red alert level under the state Department of Education’s recommendations.  

Under the recommendations adopted by the state school board in July, a red alert is for counties with 50 cases or more for every 100,000. At that point, school districts are advised to rely solely on distance learning until the case levels decrease.

However, the guidance also notes that those protocols are non-binding and can be set aside if the case numbers are substantially impacted by facilities that do not readily lend themselves to community spread, including prisons.

On Sept. 28, Hominy municipal officials announced via social media that most of the increased caseload in their community’s zip code was due to a spike in diagnoses at Dick Connor Correctional Facility. On Oct. 5, Hominy Public Schools Superintendent Doyle Edwards sent a letter to parents notifying them that students have tested positive for COVID-19. She did not specify how many, or what grades.

On Oct. 6, Pawhuska Public Schools Superintendent David Cash issued a similar letter and said one student tested positive for COVID-19 and that all students identified by the Osage County Health Department as having been exposed are in quarantine.