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An update from Duncan’s superintendent Dr. Tom Deighan on Monday indicated that as of Sept. 13, 200 students and staff members have been quarantined in connection with around 10 COVID-19 cases.

Originally, this school year started with physicians and Oklahoma State Department of Health members saying they would know how things would progress throughout the year by about the third week in school. Now, Duncan Public Schools (DPS) has finished up their fourth week of classes and will head into their fifth week by continuing precautionary measures.

“We have not had any spread of COVID inside the schools,” Deighan said. “We’ve had some individuals with COVID and we’ve sent people home just as a precaution, but we have no evidence that COVID is spreading the schools. I want you to understand, 200 staff and students have been sent home — not because they have COVID, but because they were possibly exposed. These 200 students and staff were connected to about 10 individual cases of positive COVID. As far as we know at this point, nobody has contracted COVID during the school day at Duncan Public Schools.”

Deighan said this is because they have tracing methods in place to determine who has been around whom.

“As people come in from different activities and they show up at school and they have tested positive for COVID, we trace them, figure out who they were sitting next, whether or not people are wearing masks and Health Department decides who goes home,” Deighan said. “The masks and procedures that we have used are working. I’ve heard it from our Health Department, tracers and Stephens County staff — they are incredible — they have told us over and over again that they wish Duncan Public Schools was a model, how we’re doing it is how other districts need to be doing it. We’re a little bit different how we do masks and our seating procedures, but it is working. We have school districts that have sent home 700 students and we’re having students sent home 20 at a time, so that is a good sign that what you’re doing is working.”

Deighan said he’s met with physicians in the community several times and from that, he learned that if a “big explosion” of COVID-19 were to happen, it would take place in the third or fourth week of school.

“So far, we’ve had no big explosion of COVID,” Deighan said. “We’ve had individual cases and then we’ve had groups be sent home, but we don’t have any spread in the schools. That should be reassuring to staff and parents.”

With quarantining standards continually evolving in the school system, DPS is learning everyday, Deighan said.

“We’re just a school — we don’t have the authority to quarantine anyone,” Deighan said. “The Health Department tells us who is quarantined and when that happens, we can not discuss anyone’s health information. We still have to remember these are private people’s lives and we can’t talk about whether an individual has COVID or why they’re gone.”

At this point, Deighan said only the Health Department can answer certain questions parents and community members might have, but he did take some time to go over frequently asked questions.

The first question Deighan discussed revolved around how the district decides who will quarantine. Clearing the air, Deighan said they do not decide that.

“The health department is the only entity that can quarantine you or anybody,” he said.

Another hot question Deighan answered included if the district would divulge information related to who does or doesn’t have COVID-19.

“We’re never going to say who has COVID — we can’t,” Deighan said. “It’s still a private health matter, so we can not tell you who has COVID.”

From there, Deighan got into how the district determines letting the public know.

“When the Health Department tells us we’re going to quarantine a whole class or large group or a whole program, then we’re going to let the public know,” Deighan said.

Finally, Deighan went over why the school system is still wearing masks and simply put, Deighan said it’s because it is working.

“We’re wearing masks because we’re here four weeks into school and it’s working,” Deighan said. “The local health experts — physicians, practitioners that treat you and your children, the men and women that work in this community and our Health Department tell us that this is working. I thank you for your trust in that, I thank you for encouraging your children to wear them. Please don’t give up on this, I want us to have a whole school year and right now, masks are the key.”

For more information, email Deighan at tom.deighan@duncanps.org

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