Frequently Asked Questions

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Masks/Face Coverings

Not at this time. SB 658, which went into effect July 1, generally forbids school districts from considering a face covering mandate unless the governor has declared an emergency. Currently, no emergency order is in place. Following are the specific provisions of SB 658:

• Prohibits school boards for school districts and technology centers (as well as public and private higher education institutions) from: • Implementing a mask mandate for students who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19;
• Requiring a vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of admittance to or attendance of the school or institution; and
• Requiring documented proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
• Allows a board of education for a school district or technology center to implement a mandate to wear a mask or “any other medical device” only under the following conditions:
• The board must first consult with its local county or city-county health department; and
• The area where the board is located is under a state of emergency declared by the governor; and
• The mandate must include its purpose; and
• The mandate must specifically include what masks or medical device would meet the mandate’s requirements; and
• The board must reconsider the mandate at each regularly scheduled board meeting.

Yes. School districts can encourage mask usage, especially if current CDC guidance advises mask wearing as a health and safety measure.


Yes. State health officials and the CDC recommend vaccination as a key prevention and mitigation strategy against transmission of COVID-19. School districts can and are encouraged to offer — in partnership with county health departments or private partners — vaccination opportunities for eligible students, staff and members of the community to reduce disease spread and protect those who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated.
Yes. Districts can encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by paying a stipend to those who choose to become fully vaccinated. We’d recommend a district choosing to offer a stipend make the opportunity available to all employees for the same amount.
Yes. Offering paid administrative leave to staff is one way to incentivize employees to become vaccinated. Hosting a vaccine clinic for employees could be a great way to encourage vaccination.
Current CDC guidance exempts fully vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts from potential quarantine. Please note that even if school districts are eventually able to enact a mask mandate in accordance with SB 658, the law also prohibits school districts from implementing a mask mandate for students based on vaccination status and from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of school admittance or attendance. Current CDC guidance recommends fully vaccinated individuals get tested 3-5 days after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until they receive a negative test result.
Schools must have parental consent to check vaccination records in the Oklahoma State Immunization Information System (OSIIS). Authorization forms are provided by the Oklahoma State Health Department on its website.
No. Public schools in Oklahoma are not subject to OSHA regulations so the vaccine/testing rules would not apply to school district employees, including those whose salaries are funded by federal dollars. Workers in schools employed by private, third-party companies that oversee services like child nutrition, janitorial services or substitutes may be subject to the vaccination or weekly testing mandate. Workers employed by the private companies also will be entitled to paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects. The plan would require teachers and staff in Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education to be vaccinated. The Head Start and Early Head Start requirements will be issued through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the agency has said those employees would be expected to be fully vaccinated by January.
Yes. Nothing within the current law would prohibit a public school from instituting a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees or requiring regular COVID-19 testing. However, districts must include opt-out provisions for employees who object due to religious reasons or who have an underlying medical condition which might prevent them from receiving the vaccine or undergoing testing. Those opt-out provisions are required due to requirements under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further, as vaccine and testing requirements would likely be considered a term or condition of employment, your district may be required negotiate the issue with your employee collective bargaining units. Vaccine mandates for students would be prohibited under SB 658. Though the temporary injunction applies to the section on mask mandates, the section regarding vaccines for students remains in place. Student testing could be performed legally; however, the district would need consent from the parent or guardian of any student under the age of 18 prior to testing. Competent students 18 and older may consent to their own testing.

Contacts, Contract Tracing, Isolation and Quarantines

A person who was within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period Exception: In a classroom setting, this excludes students (but not teachers, staff or other adults) who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student where both students were correctly and consistently wearing a mask and other prevention strategies (universal masking, distancing, increased ventilation) are in place. (Please see masks/face coverings section). (CDC guidance)
Contact tracing is the process public health officials use to identify people who may have had close contact with an infectious person. School districts may be asked to assist health officials in identifying those who may be close contacts. (CDC contact tracing guidance)
No, but there are good reasons to do so. State health officials have recommended school districts develop and communicate a contact tracing process for those exposed to a person who is ill or tests positive for COVID-19. Notifying families of students who would qualify as a close contact of the exposure allows families to make important health and safety decisions, which may include close monitoring for symptoms, self-quarantine, consulting with a health official and limiting contact with high-risk family and friends.
Isolation keeps someone who is sick or tested positive for COVID-19 without symptoms away from others, even in their own home. Students or staff who are isolated due to a positive COVID-19 test should not be at school until the isolation period is complete. (CDC isolation guidance)
Health officials determine the length of an isolation period. Generally, a COVID-19 isolation period is a minimum of 10 days from the date symptoms started or, for those with no symptoms, from the date of a positive test. Those with symptoms, who were severely ill or have a weakened immune symptom may need to isolate for longer than 10 days. Symptomatic individuals should remain in isolation until after 10 days since symptoms first appeared have passed, and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medicine, and if other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. (CDC isolation guidance)
Those in isolation should stay home (unless in need of medical care) and separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available). (CDC isolation guidance)
Yes, as long as they meet the criteria above and other circumstances don’t prompt local health officials to require the sibling and/or other family members to quarantine. (CDC quarantine guidance)
Yes. Districts are urged to consult with their county health departments regarding the most-up-to-date guidance on quarantines. State health guidance advises schools to develop and communicate written processes for contact tracing and quarantines and review current health guidance surrounding quarantines in schools, which can change over time. It is important that employees, students and families are informed of the district’s protocols and any changes that may be made to protocols based on new guidance or data. OSSBA has the below template letters districts can customize to communicate about close contact exposure and possible quarantines.

• District Letter Template – Health officials say quarantine is necessary

• District Letter Template – Health officials do not recommend quarantine

Without a health department order, the district can encourage but not require students identified as close contacts to self-quarantine and offer educational options that will allow students to self-quarantine while minimizing disruptions to student learning.
Yes. The state’s administrative rules allow a superintendent, teacher, or other official in charge of any school to exclude any child suffering from or exhibiting the following symptoms: (1) fever alone, 100 degrees Fahrenheit; (2) sore throat or tonsillitis; (3) any eruption of the skin, or rash; (4) any nasal discharge accompanied by fever; (5) a severe cough, producing phlegm; or (6) any inflammation of the eyes or lids.
Yes. State health officials recommend school-based diagnostic testing for ill staff and students. In addition, districts can offer random testing called screening testing. School-based testing results must be reported to the state Health Department through the State Infection Reporting System. Refer to state health department guidance or contact your county or state health officials for additional details. School districts must have parental consent before minors are tested for COVID-19.
No. Symptomatic students or staff members should not attend school while awaiting test results, especially if they are unvaccinated. (CDC waiting for test results guidance)

Employee Issues

Yes, if they choose. Districts need employees to stay home when they are sick and potentially ill with the virus. Identifying options to continue to provide paid leave helps protect the health and safety of students and staff and promotes a positive, employee friendly work environment. Districts may give employees flexibility for how to use their accrued local leave and/or grant paid administrative leave to those who contract the virus and must isolate and those who are exposed and must quarantine. District officials may wish to establish administrative guidelines outlining flexible leave criteria so the benefit is applied consistently to qualifying employees. Additionally, districts can enter Memorandums of Agreement with their local employee associations to extend benefits.
Yes; however, this is a local control decision. A school district may choose to offer paid administrative leave to only fully vaccinated employees as an incentive for school employees to be vaccinated. If the vaccinated employee requires leave for an isolation or quarantine, this would allow the employee time without use of their personal sick leave. On the other hand, unvaccinated employees who receive medical advice to quarantine or isolate may be required to use their personal sick leave for the necessary time period. If district officials decide to require a quarantine of an employee, it may be best to provide paid administrative leave for all employees, rather than distinguishing between those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated. District officials should establish administrative guidelines outlining flexible leave criteria so the benefit is applied consistently.
Yes. If an employee’s job responsibilities are conducive to working from home or they can be given adjusted responsibilities to serve the district, they can be allowed to work from home and should not be docked leave. Districts may ask employees to document their work progress or hours while at home for accountability and record-keeping purposes.
Some employees may be particularly susceptible to COVID-19, such as those with underlying health conditions. These issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but districts are encouraged to be flexible with use of sick and other available leave. Also, some of these cases may include issues covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). School districts are encouraged to contact their retained counsel for advice on specific issues that may be covered by the ADA.
If an employee has a chronic health condition, documentation should be provided by the employee’s physician. The district will need to determine whether the condition qualifies for coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act and, if so, whether a reasonable accommodation can be provided that allows the employee to perform their specific job duties for the school district.
Yes. School districts must take reasonable steps to protect employees. Notwithstanding the employee’s use of appropriate leave which may be available to them, an employee cannot refuse to return to work simply due to a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, a public school cannot legally pay an employee who refuses to return to work unless they have paid leave available to them.
No because of SB 658. If a teacher requires an ADA accommodation, students may be encouraged to wear a mask. In the absence of sufficient mask-wearing, districts should talk with the employee to consider the full range of alternative accommodations to ensure the teacher can safely perform their job duties. It should be noted that the inability to require masks may require districts to more closely consider certain accommodations that were considered unreasonable in the past.
Yes, an employee should notify the school district if they test positive. This will allow the school district to work quickly with the county health department in an effort to protect students, staff and the community.
If a teacher does not have internet access and internet access is required to complete his/her assigned duties, the district would be required to provide the employee with a mobile hot spot or other internet access alternative.
Many school districts have allowed employees to perform needed duties other than those they are regularly assigned while working from home. For example, a paraprofessional could be asked to make phone calls to parents of children in the virtual program to check on their progress. OSSBA encourages this practice because it allows the employee to continue to support the district’s mission and to complete work that benefits students.

Student Issues

When possible, yes. The Oklahoma State Department of Health confirmed that school officials will be contacted by county health officials as part of their investigation if the child attended school while positive. We encourage school administrators to communicate with their county health officials in advance to ensure they have updated contact information for the appropriate school representative.
Yes. There is no legal prohibition that would prevent a school district from taking student temperatures or inquiring about other COVID-19 symptoms. While the screening can take place on campus, many districts are asking parents to conduct health screenings at home before sending their children to school each day. State health officials have noted the difficulty in checking for COVID-19 symptoms, as many symptoms now are similar to those from seasonal allergies. They have provided the following assessment to assist in determining whether someone should be kept home, sent home from school, and/or tested for COVID-19.
The school district must continue to provide educational services, which may be delivered via distance learning or a virtual learning program. If the student is on an IEP, the student’s IEP team must determine the new placement and decide which services are necessary to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Other Health and Safety Concerns

Yes! Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
Yes. A school district can legally control who enters school property and who has access to its students and staff. A school district may legally prohibit all unnecessary visitors to the school campus. We encourage you to communicate with parents and community members that this guideline has been implemented to protect the safety and health of students, staff and visitors.
School officials must protect the identity and confidentiality of students and staff members who test positive for COVID-19; however, we encourage you to communicate with your staff, parents and community when a case is relevant or may be perceived as relevant to their health and safety. It is best to be transparent. Open, honest and sincere communication helps school districts gain and strengthen the trust of their communities. Districts are encouraged to share with parents and community members in advance how they will communicate about COVID cases. Because COVID cases have become more common, it may not be necessary to send mass communication for every situation. Parents should be assured, however, that they will be contacted directly if there is an exposure that involves their child. Last year, many school officials provided transparent information to stakeholders by creating a page on their website with updated COVID-related information, including the number of students and staff currently in isolation or quarantine. Personal communication was then only sent to those who were impacted or potentially impacted. OSSBA has developed templates to help with COVID-related communication needs. Additionally, you are welcome to contact our Communication Team for personalized assistance – Christy Watson, Director of Marketing and Communications and Amber Graham Fitzgerald, Director of Member Engagement.
Yes. The state Health Department has asked school districts to notify the county health department immediately if two or more cases from different households are identified within the same classroom or within the same cohort outside of the classroom such as the lunchroom or extra-curricular activities (sports, music, after school clubs, etc.) Health officials may recommend additional mitigation efforts.
Yes. Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 may require a move to virtual learning to protect students and staff. If and when to do so is a matter of local control. If a district has metrics or a decision tree in place that would trigger such a change or if such a change seems possible based on changing health concerns, those should be communicated with families as soon as possible.

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