The Marlow Public School District issued a letter Sunday to its website, indicating the middle and high schools will transition to virtual learning temporarily after COVID-19 numbers in the area continue to surge.
As of Sunday, Nov. 15, Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recorded 1,149 confirmed cases in Stephens County, of which 12 have died and 857 have recovered, leaving 280 active cases in the area. Marlow, as of Sunday, has had 217 total cases, of which one has died and 143 have recovered, leaving 73 active cases in the city, OSDH reported.
“The current rate of COVID-19 transmission in our community is making it very difficult to minimize exposure and prevent further spread among our students and staff,” reads a letter from the Marlow district. “This community surge is significantly impacting our schools, in particular our high school and middle school teachers.”
Superintendent George Coffman, who penned the letter, said the district just “reached a point” where virtual learning, though temporary, is a necessity for the middle and high schools.
“I am proud of the job our teachers have done balancing the demands of teaching their in-person classes while also serving the academic needs of quarantined students and virtual students,” Coffman wrote. “Despite our strong efforts and positive attitudes, we all recognize this approach is not ideal. Additionally, we now have students, who are suffering academically, experiencing their second or third quarantine from the school. Coupled with a continuing shortage of qualified substitutes, we have reached a point where temporary virtual learning has become necessary at the middle and high schools only.”
The transition will begin Monday. Nov. 16 through Friday, Nov. 20 and extend through Thanksgiving Break, which is scheduled for Nov. 23 through Nov. 27, which is already on the school calendar. Students, at this time, are anticipated to return on Monday, Nov. 30.
“I regret I have to make this decision,” Coffman said. “Ultimately, the safety and well-being of students and employees has to remain my primary focus. I appreciate your support and understanding. I hope that this reset will get us to the other side of this current COVID surge and that we will be able to finish the final weeks of this semester strong and together at school.”
The movement comes after a recent surge of cases in Marlow.
“Over the past 24 hours, we have been notified of several new positive cases and exposures among employees and students,” Coffman said. “These cases will necessitate the immediate reset of the entire school district.”
There will still be a free breakfast and lunch program for families. Pick up will take place 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the south elementary school each day, Nov. 16-20, during the virtual learning period. This is available to all students.
Teachers, administrators and staff who are not positive for COVID-19 nor quarantined at this time are still “expected to present at work during normal working hours."
“We will be full virtual and students are expected to continue working toward their academic goals,” Coffman said. “In most cases, students who are involved in seasonable sports and activities will be able to continue participation in practices and competitive events. Individual coaches will coordinate with and contact their students regarding additional instructions and guidelines.”
Coffman said parents can contact him or their building principal if they have questions, but said ultimately the community needs to come together to keep practicing social distancing skills.
“Finally, for all parents, we need to continue to work cooperatively to keep ourselves, our children and our community safe. Please continue to coach your children on the protocols for avoiding COVID: avoid large gatherings, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, stay six feet apart, avoid direct physical contact and diligently monitor your symptoms to protect others. We know this is a challenging time for you and your families, but together we will get through this.”
For the middle school, call 580-658-2619. For the high school, call 580-658-2718. For the superintendent, call 580-658-2719.