First day of school

Students at Jackson Elementary walk home from the first day of elementary in-person instruction Aug. 31. 

NORMAN — Norman Public Schools has recorded seven positive COVID-19 cases — none of them in elementary schools — this week.

While the district will be informing individual school sites of positive cases, district spokespeople did not address questions about whether NPS will be reporting district-wide case numbers or quarantine counts to the public. 

NPS returned to in-person instruction for more than 4,000 elementary school students on Monday, and is preparing to bring back middle and high school students who have opted for a traditional/remote or blended semester. Secondary students will return to in-person instruction on Tuesday with alternate schedules. 

While prior to this week, the district had released information about school sanitation, social distancing in schools and NPS’ protocol for deciding when to move online, NPS had not publicly communicated about contact tracing procedures or case reporting and tracking.

In response to questions from The Transcript, NPS spokespeople said Friday afternoon that the district has been notified of seven total cases — two students, five staff — across the district this week. According to the district, none of the cases are in elementary students or staff.

The district did not directly respond to a question about whether the district would be tracking cumulative cases or quarantining individuals, or whether the general NPS community would be regularly informed about the district’s case count. 

Instead, NPS said that those in "close contact" with a positive individual will be "personally notified and provided with quarantine information,” and that the entire school site will be notified about the positive result. The district did note that it will share case numbers with the media upon request. 

Other large Oklahoma districts that are learning in person are reporting positive cases openly on their sites or on public spreadsheets.

Edmond Public Schools, the third largest district in the state, is updating its case count publicly on its site every Friday (the district of just over 25,000 students has recorded 12 cases in students, teachers and administrators since Aug. 20). Tulsa Union Public Schools, a district of about 16,000 students (comparable to NPS), is keeping a running spreadsheet on its site tracking cases at each school site. Three of the five largest districts in the state — Tulsa, Putnam City and Oklahoma City — have both started the school year virtually for at least nine weeks.

As the district works to contact trace and share quarantine procedures among positive individuals and those in close contact with them, the definition of “close contact” might vary across different cases.

NPS’ site notes that for elementary schools, all students in a classroom with the positive individual will be required to quarantine and learn remotely for 14 days. At the middle and high school level, the district again notes on its site that students or teachers in “close contact” with someone who has tested positive will be notified and required to quarantine. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” as spending at least 15 minutes within six feet of a COVID-positive person beginning 48 hours from their illness onset. 

The Transcript asked the district whether this definition means that only those sitting within six feet of an infected student in a middle or high school classroom will have to quarantine, or if everyone in a classroom with an infected individual will be quarantining. In response, NPS spokespeople said just that the issue “will be determined by the contact tracing process.” 

NPS’ contact tracing process will involve both school site health professionals and the Cleveland County Health Department, the district confirmed Friday. When a school site is notified of a positive case, the site health professional will reach out to the positive individual to get more information about their case and their close contacts at school or school activities. 

The school health professional will share the district’s quarantining procedure with the individual, then share their case and close contact information with the county health department. The department has a contact tracer assigned to each of Norman’s school sites, according to the district, and will follow up with a more thorough contact tracing procedure that includes determining close contacts beyond the school. 

According to the district, NPS health professionals will not be administering nasal swab COVID tests to teachers, staff or students at this time. If a student exhibits COVID symptoms at school, the school will move them to “a designated isolation space” where they can wait for parent or guardian pickup. 

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