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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — At the end of Wednesday officials with Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) released more information about how the district came to close Taft Middle School and its satellite 5th Grade Center at Linwood.

UPDATED – 2:00 p.m. Thursday, May 20.

Free Press reported Tuesday that the school in the Northwest Classen High School vertical would be closed for the remainder of the school year due to an alarming rise of COVID cases there and a significant number of exposures to those who were infected.

To learn more: COVID hits OKCPS again – Taft Middle School closed for remainder of year

Now the district is watching closely for spread to other feeder schools in the Northwest Classen vertical since brothers and sisters in some of the same families attend several schools.

UPDATE: Thursday, district officials informed Free Press that district contact tracers have identified one positive case of COVID-19 in the student body at Northwest Classen High School and two close contact cases. In the same vertical with brothers and sisters in the same households, contact tracers have identified one close contact in Buchanan Elementary and one close contact in Mark Twain Elementary.

Officials say that those individuals who have had close contact are being sent home for virtual learning until they have had enough time to be tested accurately.

New numbers

Current numbers as of Wednesday morning show more infections and possible contacts than had even been speculated by the public on social media.

Since verticals from feeder elementaries to middle schools to the high school at the top have many siblings interacting with each other there has been immediate concern from top to bottom in the Northwest Classen vertical.

In response to our inquiry, district officials emailed their process and the latest numbers for the two-building Taft Middle School.

As of Wednesday morning, district contact tracers had identified “a total of 9 positive cases at Taft Middle School, which have resulted in close to 150 close contacts. Please note that these numbers only include positive cases that have been reported to OKCPS and confirmed with a COVID-19 test.”

And, the situation was showing signs of spread. “Several individuals who had initially been designated as ‘close contacts’ later tested positive for COVID-19, indicating that we had active transmission occurring at Taft Middle School,” district officials said.

Contact tracing

District officials said that the district does its own contact tracing at each school site. The information is reported to the district-wide “COVID-19 Command Team.”

“This week when district contact tracers started to see a trend suggesting there could be transmission occurring at Taft Middle School, OKCPS immediately reached out to OCCHD [Oklahoma City-County Health Department] for further assessment and guidance,” the response said.

OCCHD officials then were contacted. After the consultation, “out of an abundance of caution” the district moved to a plan of a two-week “reset” that had been developed earlier in the year to stop the spread of the disease in any building “in order to interrupt transmission.”

If the spread had been detected earlier in the year the buildings would have been closed for two weeks and then possibly opened again for in-person learning.

In this case, the two-week reset extended beyond the school year’s scheduled end, causing the closure of the two buildings to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.

Last Updated May 20, 2021, 2:22 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor