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2023-2024 Return to School Plan

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Last Updated December 2023










Statement of Action


After successfully returning to learn in a traditional in-person format during the 2020-2021 school year, Okemah Schools will remain open for in-person learning for the 2023-2024 school year. The following guidelines are shared with our school community, including students, families, and staff to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Any school procedures that were changed or canceled during the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID have been re-evaluated to determine which should remain as is, which should revert back to pre-COVID, and which should be altered in any other manner. The guiding premise for all decisions was the question “What is best for students?”


The goal is to create carefully layered, flexible, and developmentally appropriate practices allowing students to be physically present at school.  It is important, therefore, that everyone read the following guidelines and understand how important it is for us to be consistent and insistent on all safeguards.  The effectiveness of this plan relies strongly on each individual’s personal responsibility to monitor his or her health.


Okemah Public Schools will continue to monitor community health and adjust this plan accordingly. As we navigate through these ever-changing times, we are very appreciative of the patience and support of our students, staff, and families. We will strongly encourage routine daily self-assessment for individuals coming onto campuses to include temperature and symptom checks. This plan will be flexible and reassessed continually as conditions change.


The information presented in this document is shared so that all of our community can begin school with a common understanding of our responsibility in keeping our students and staff safe from COVID-19. We know we cannot eliminate the virus, but with wise choices, we can mitigate and reduce the spread of it.


*This plan is subject to change based on local, state, and federal recommendations for health and safety. Local health statistics will be monitored daily to determine the best option for opening school. A full virtual option could occur depending on local statistics and guidance from health officials.




All building and district communication concerning school closures will utilize our school messaging system (which will include a text opt-in), school app, social media outlets, and the school website.


Academics & Growth


Achieving our core mission to educate children is a tremendous challenge during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Okemah Public Schools is committed to keeping learning constant throughout the school year, although we know we are likely to experience disruption due to possible positive diagnoses.


Our goals for the 2021-2022 year are to provide a traditional learning format with flexible learning pathways for families who may be impacted by health concerns either due to an individual who is immunocompromised or due to a short period where family members are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms.


If you have questions about your child returning to face-to-face instruction please contact your site principal or the superintendent to discuss returning for the 2021-2022 school year.

  • Elementary - Principal A.Rogers  
  • Middle School – Chris McMullen  
  • High School - Principal R. Hatfield
  • Superintendent - R.L. Vick II        


Access to Curriculum

We have streamlined our learning platforms to help students succeed academically in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Students and parents will be able to access lessons and resources through site learning management systems (LMS).


  •  Google Classroom


Access to Technology

Every student in the district will have access to a student device if needed.   Pre-K and Kindergarten students will receive a device that includes a touch screen.  Students in grades 1-12 will receive a Chromebook or laptop if needed. Fourth and fifth grade students will have the opportunity to take their Chromebooks home daily under our Chromebook Policy Guidelines. Students in 4-12 grades who take their devices home daily will be required to pay a yearly technology usage and insurance fee. Devices for all elementary students are available for use at home and can be checked out as necessary. The district will ensure all students have equal access to technology, allowing them to succeed in a traditional and virtual setting.


School Calendar

The school calendar could be revised in an attempt to limit exposure to the virus and allow district staff to make adjustments to COVID-19 related virtual learning needs.


A revised calendar could include “off campus” virtual days in which campuses will be limited to students based on specific learning/developmental needs.


Meeting the Needs of All Student Groups

Okemah Public Schools will respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, and particularly those students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including students from low-income families, students of color, English language learners, children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, and migratory students.


Response to COVID-19 Level


Level 1:Students in school in-person as normal

           We anticipate opening at this level on August 12th, and our goal is to continue at this level for the entire school year

  • Normal in-person school operations will be conducted when ZERO to a LOW number cases of COVID exist in the school community.
  • Students will be trained and reminded in classrooms about the healthy benefits of proper and frequent handwashing as well as respiratory etiquette of covering the mouth during coughs and sneezes.
  • Face coverings and masks are optional for students and staff. Students and staff will follow state and local health department guidance as required by Oklahoma State Law 70 O.S.1210.190, which includes a requirement for the governor to declare a state of emergency.
  • OPS administration will reassess conditions daily.
  • The superintendent will decide to activate distance learning for classrooms, buildings, or the district if necessary.


LEVEL 2: Students in school with precautions

  • Under this scenario, school will resume as normal, but with precautions.
  • Student entry to the buildings will be more controlled.
  • Desks in classrooms will be spaced and physical distancing will be increased in all buildings.
  • Students will be asked to wash their hands more often.
  • Lunchroom procedures will be modified to increase physical distancing. Elementary breakfast could possibly move to the classrooms.
  • The masks and face-covering status is subject to change based upon state or local mask requirements. Masks may be required based on community spread. Students and staff will  follow state and local health department guidance as required by Oklahoma State Law 70 O.S.1210.190, which includes a requirement for the governor to declare a state of emergency.
  • The goal of operation with this scenario is to have school feel relatively normal to our students with some changes that will keep all of our learners and staff safe and healthy.


LEVEL 3: Distance and virtual learning for all students and/or state-mandated closure.

‚óŹ 100% distance and virtual learning platform will be implemented if:

  • Health or government officials direct schools to close to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.
  • OPS officials determine that closure is necessary.
  • School buildings will be under operational shut down for longer than three (3) consecutive days.
  • Teachers will be allowed into the buildings for the sole purpose of managing lessons through the school’s learning management system.
  •  Teachers will be required to maintain social distancing and to follow all CDC recommendations.
  •  Students/parents may only access the building by a scheduled appointment with the building principal or his/her designee.
  • Distance learning will be implemented for all students.


Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction: Aligned

with Safety Recommendations Established by the

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)


1. Universal and Correct Wearing of Masks:

Okemah Public Schools will monitor the changing conditions of COVID-19, and our policy concerning masks may change under the advice of the state department of education and state health officials. Okemah Public schools will work closely with state and county health officials to determine when properly-fitted masks covering the mouth and nose will be worn on buses/school vehicles and in situations where students are not able to social distance. Students and staff will follow state and local health department guidance as required by Oklahoma State Law 70 O.S. 1210.190, which includes a requirement for the governor to declare a state of emergency.


2. Modifying Facilities for Social Distancing:

Facilities are marked to show the recommended three to six (3-6) feet of distance in seating and standing areas wherever possible throughout the Okemah School District. Each site has devised plans to increase physical distancing when possible in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, gymnasiums, auditoriums, bathrooms, buses, etc. In classrooms, students will be seated to minimize exposure.


3. Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette:

Students are trained and reminded in classrooms about the healthy benefits of proper and frequent handwashing as well as respiratory etiquette of covering the mouth during coughs and sneezes. Signage is posted throughout all facilities with these reminders. Hand sanitizer is available in classrooms, offices, cafeterias, and anywhere that students or patrons may pass.


4. Cleaning and Maintaining Healthy Facilities including Improving Ventilation:

Okemah Public Schools uses industrial misting and fogging equipment to sanitize common areas, classrooms, and buses.


5. Contact Tracing Combined with Isolation and Quarantine, Collaborating with State, Local, and Tribal Health Departments:

The Superintendent and other district personnel have attended training Zoom calls with the Oklahoma State Health Department to be informed on the status of infections, testing, vaccines, and CDC guidance for prevention habits, isolation, and quarantine in order to keep our students and staff as safe as possible to maintain in-person learning for students.


6. Diagnostic and Screening Testing:

The Okfuskee County Health Department offers free COVID testing to all Okemah Public School students, staff, and families. Okemah Public Schools remains in close collaboration with the County Health Department and the Muscogee Nation who also offer COVID support to our employees for screening and for vaccinations.


7. Vaccination Efforts for the School Community:

The Okfuskee County Health Department reserved days for our school’s staff and other educators to receive vaccinations in April and May 2021. In addition, the Muscogee Nation offered vaccinations for tribal members and local educators. We have ongoing collaboration with both the Okfuskee County Health Department and the Muscogee Nation for COVID support.


8. Appropriate accommodations for students with Disabilities with Respect for Health and Safety Policies:

At times when school is moved to distance learning due to COVID, students with disabilities are offered the option to learn in person in classrooms that have been deep cleaned and sanitized. ESSER COVID Relief funds have been used to purchase adaptive technology for students with disabilities to use when they are required to engage in remote learning due to quarantine, deep cleaning, or inclement weather.


9. Coordination with State and Local Health Officials:

Okemah Public Schools has worked in collaboration with the State and County Health Departments to develop contact tracing protocols, implementation of COVID testing, and vaccination schedules.



According to the Center for Disease Control:

COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as hand-washing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered in this guide. Fortunately, there are several actions school staff can take to help lower the risk of exposure to and the spread of COVID-19 during school sessions and activities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020).


One of the actions that can be taken to help lower the risk of exposure is the use of face coverings. Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Individuals should be repeatedly reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to staff, students, and students’ families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings (CDC, 2020).


Symptoms of COVID-19

People with COVID-19 have reported having a wide range of symptoms – from mild symptoms to severe illness. Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally experience mild illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell


This list is not all-inclusive. Other symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (CDC, 2020).


Universal Precautions Recommended by the CDC

Hand Washing

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.


Physical Distancing

Avoid close contact by putting an appropriate distance between yourself and others. Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Keeping an appropriate distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.


Masks and Face Shields

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover or a plastic face shield when around others. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Everyone should wear a mask or shield when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age two (2), anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. The cloth face cover or plastic shield is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.


Cover Coughs and Sneezes

If you are in a private setting and do not have your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.


Clean and Disinfect

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces throughout the day.


Okemah Public Schools will monitor the health of our students and staff by:


  1. DAILY HEALTH SCREENINGS - Each morning, families are asked to complete a self-assessment checklist and take their children's temperature, as a fever of 100.4 or greater may be an indication of an active case of COVID-19. If this is the case, please keep your child home to monitor for additional symptoms. If it is necessary to keep your child home please call and communicate to the site office. Okemah Public Schools staff may check student’s temperatures as they arrive on campus depending on current COVID levels.


  1. PHYSICAL DISTANCING - While it will be difficult to maintain six (6) feet of physical distance between the students at school, each site is devising plans to increase physical distancing where possible in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, gymnasiums, auditoriums, bathrooms, buses, etc.


  1. HYGIENE - Handwashing is one of the best means of protection against infection. Students will be reminded to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their noses, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating. They will also have access to an alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the school building when hand-washing opportunities are not readily available. 


  1. CLEANING PROTOCOLS  - Okemah Public Schools uses EPA recommended cleaning products and CDC recommended disinfecting procedures. Increased cleaning and disinfecting measures will be implemented in the following areas:
    1. Bathrooms
      1. Additional sanitization using disinfecting sprayers each day during the lunch period and the end of the day.
  1. Classrooms
    1. Regularly sanitized using a disinfecting sprayer.
    2. Each classroom will have sanitation supplies for teachers to disinfect as needed.
    3. Each classroom will have hand sanitizer for students and staff to sanitize hands in classrooms where soap and water are not available.
    4. Students and staff will limit the sharing of supplies, utensils, devices, toys, books, and learning materials.
  1. Buses
    1. Each bus will be sanitized daily.
  1. Cafeteria
    1. Students will sanitize their hands before entering the serving line.
    2. Students will practice physical distancing as much as space allows.
    3. Serving lines will be modified to minimize the contamination of food being served.


  1. TRAINING - All staff are required to attend COVID-19 professional development to be familiar with signs, symptoms, precautions, and responsibilities. All students will be instructed in best practices for healthy habits including education on COVID-19.


Handwashing Tip:  It is important to teach children proper hygiene all the time, but especially to remind them about good habits during a public health crisis like COVID-19. One habit is proper handwashing. According to CDC guidelines, follow these five steps every time you wash your hands.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
  3. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  4. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  5. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.






School Operations

Communication with Parents and Community

All communication with parents and the community may be delivered through School Messenger and/or the district web page HTTPS://OKEMAHK12.COMIt is imperative you make sure your phone number is correct in the school’s student information system. This is the system that is used to make the calls. Any shut down will also be posted on our social media outlets.


Parents should also connect to the district’s Facebook and/or Twitter pages. Direct communication with site principals and teachers through email will be used regularly. Okemah Public Schools is committed to strong communication and responsive action. If you need assistance and cannot reach your site, you may reach out to R.L. Vick II, Superintendent, at, or call the office at 918-623-1874, x 4.


Parents will find the self-assessment checklist and learn more about the details of the Okemah Public School reopening plan through the district website and site Facebook pages. Parents can expect consistent communication during the 2021-2022 school year.


Daily Health Screening - Self-Assessment Checklist

Parents will be required to acknowledge the responsibilities and risks of sending your child back to school by agreeing to conduct home self-assessments daily.  The self-assessment checklist may be found on our district website. The daily self-assessment checklist includes answering questions about

  • Fever - Students must stay home if your child has a temperature over 100.4 F.
  • Sore Throat
  • Dry Cough
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath
  • Direct exposure to others diagnosed with COVID-19


Parents are not required to turn in checklists at school sites. However, parents will be reminded regularly about completing the checklist at home before sending children to school.


For the safety of our students while on roads and highways, temperature checks will not occur prior to boarding buses but may be required before entering buildings. We will rely on each family to conduct a self-assessment each morning before sending children to school.


Students who remain home due to COVID-19 symptoms will be able to access class assignments through their site LMS. Teachers will assist students with questions while students are away from campus.


Students who become ill at school will be sent to a designated isolation area. School staff will follow an established protocol for assessing symptoms and notifying parents. Parents are required to pick up students who become ill at school.



Any student exhibiting symptoms related to COVID-19 should stay home from school to limit the possibility of exposing others. Any student who develops a fever and/or any other symptoms will be evaluated by school personnel and possibly sent home. Any absence related to COVID-19 will be listed as a medical-related, absence and will be tracked for reporting purposes. If possible, students will be expected to engage in distance learning during these absences. The building principal will have the final authority to excuse or not excuse any of these types of absences.


Morning Drop Off

  • The buildings will not be open until 7:45 a.m. each morning. Please do not send your child to school before this time as they will not be able to enter the building. (sponsors will advise students of extracurricular times.)
  • Temperatures may be taken prior to entering the building.
  • All elementary students are expected to use the west door drop off area in the morning.  Parents are asked to remain in their cars at all times. There will not be a walk-up drop off for car riders this year. (Please call if tardy)
  • Elementary students will go directly to their classrooms.
  • Middle school students are expected to be dropped off on the west side by the Noble building.
  • High school students are expected to be dropped off at the main entrance of the high school



  • Parent participation and assistance is very important during this difficult time. Okemah teachers are prepared for the first days of school. Know your children are in the hands of teachers who truly care about their wellbeing and will care for them and help them get through these first days. Please trust us with your children.


  • ELEMENTARY - We understand that walking your child to the school building on the first day of school is an important moment for families. We want to assist you in making great memories. The following procedure will be used for the first two days of school if you want to walk your child to the building.


  • Parents will not be allowed into the building.
  • If you would like to take pictures, please enter at the northernmost driveway near the multi-purpose gym.
  • We will have an area designated for families to take pictures.
  • School personnel will be there to assist your child in the building after taking pictures.
  • Return to the parking lot and exit using the northeast exit (The same location as you entered).


Afterschool Pick Up

  • Please understand we realize that it is hard waiting for your children, but the safe release of students is our #1 priority.
  • We are asking all elementary parents to remain in the elementary parking lot until their child’s teacher brings students out for release.
  • Parents are asked to social distance while waiting on students and to be patient as students are released.






Increased physical distancing and sanitation protocols will be continue in the cafeterias. Breakfast and lunch locations will be determined by each site. This could be in the classrooms or cafeteria with physical distancing being taken into consideration.  These plans are fluid as staff assess the best way to distance students.


Each site will determine protocols for

  • Limiting the number of students in the cafeteria as schedules allow
  • Students eating in classrooms, large classrooms or gyms, or in open-air areas
  • Procedures for student entrance, exit, and traffic flow.


Elementary students may eat breakfast in their classrooms. Middle school and high school students will eat breakfast in the cafeteria.


Lunches will primarily be served for all students in the cafeteria. Each site will determine alternate feeding locations as needed to increase physical distancing.


Parents and visitors will not be allowed in the cafeteria.  Only students enrolled in Okemah Public Schools will be allowed in the cafeteria during serving times.

Athletics and Extracurricular Activities

Procedures for athletics and extracurricular activities will be followed in conjunction with recommendations from OSSAA and our state/local health professionals. Information about practices and precautions will be posted through each activity’s sponsor or department.


Facility Use by Outside Organizations

Facility use by outside organizations will be determined on a case by case basis. Consideration will be given for organizations able to commit to guidelines for limiting exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Additional cleaning requirements and fees may be required.


Facility Cleaning and Sanitization

  • Each site will have a checklist and a timeline for completion for daily sanitization practices.
  • Sanitization stations will be set up at the entrance of each facility and in the common areas.
  • Necessary equipment will be provided at each facility for proper cleaning and student safety.


Whole Child & Family Supports

Our mission is to ensure all students and their families feel welcome and safe at school. This mission is especially important during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Whether students are learning through on-campus face-to-face instruction or virtually at home, we work to promote a feeling of community with all students and families.


In response to the increasing needs of families for the 2021-2022 school year, Okemah Schools will do the following:

  • Regular check-ins with students
  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum to assist students in building skills in self-awareness, self-regulation, and collaborative interaction
  • Additional training for teachers in trauma-informed practices
  • Health, wellness, and community resources for students and families on our website


For additional information about mental health, contact your school’s site principal or Elementary Counselor Jamie Sollie at, Middle School Counselor Rachel Cooper at, or High School Counselor Connie Haberman at


School Personnel

The safety of our school staff is paramount to our success. Taking care of all employees during the COVID-19 crisis will require flexibility and understanding in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. In response to these concerns, Okemah Public Schools is providing masks and face shields to all school employees, cleaning and disinfecting following CDC guidelines, and training employees on proper health and safety procedures.


PPE and Cleaning Kits

Each classroom will receive sanitizing/cleaning kits including disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves. Staff will be trained in the proper use of disinfectants and hand sanitizers. All classrooms will be provided with hand sanitizer, cleaning, and disinfectant supplies.


Classroom Instruction

All teachers within Okemah Public Schools will combine traditional face-to-face learning with distance learning. In doing so, students and teachers will be prepared for possible student absences and temporary school closure due to COVID-19.  Each teacher will keep up-to-date seating charts for every class.


Ongoing Staff Support

To provide the best support for our staff, we may need additional substitutes or bus drivers in times of increased COVID-19 cases or other illnesses. If you are interested in joining our team, contact the administration office at 918-623-1874, x4.

Additional training and support for staff will be provided throughout the school year as conditions change.



Bringing students, parents, and the community together is what we do best. Our success in responding to the 2021-2022 school year during COVID-19 conditions will require a community mindset and strong communication feedback loops.

*This plan is subject to change based on local, state, and federal recommendations for health and safety. Contact the Oklahoma State Health Department for COVID-19 related questions.


For any assistance with this plan, contact R.L. Vick, Superintendent, at 918-623-1874, x 4. We encourage parents to stay engaged and responsive as we honor our commitment to educate all students despite these challenges. Thank you in advance for your flexibility and understanding.





COVID-19 Communication Resources for Travelers | CDC