Springer schools move to distance learning, 1 in 3 students impacted by disease

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

COVID-19 has sent the second school in Carter County to distance learning as scores of new cases continue to be confirmed in the county each week. Springer Public Schools announced a transition to virtual learning beginning next week with about one in three students somehow impacted by the disease. 

“While this is not how we wanted to start the school year, student health and safety remain our top priority,” said Springer Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Hunter on Friday. “We have 35% of our student population either on quarantine from peer exposure, sick with viral symptoms, or home with a Covid positive family member.” 

Last week, the district sent notifications to over 30 families about potential exposure on campus. Springer is the second district in the county to move to distance learning after Dickson Public Schools made the move last week due to staffing issues from COVID-19. 

Classes for Springer schools started on Aug. 12 while classes for Dickson schools started on Aug. 11. In that time, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Carter County grew by almost 350, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Both schools are currently scheduled to reopen Sept. 7. 

According to OSDH, 7,441 cases of the disease have been recorded in the county during the pandemic and almost 1,000 of them have been recorded in the last six weeks. While the number of weekly active cases has fallen slightly from the recent high of 350 on Aug. 11, no fewer than 260 active cases have been recorded in the county since July. 

Statewide, hundreds of children are accounting for a growing percentage of new COVID-19 cases each week. During the final week in July, children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old accounted for just over 15% of new cases in Oklahoma, or almost 1,800 people. For the week ending Aug. 21, that age group accounted for over 2,500 new cases, or over 17% of new cases statewide.  

Throughout the pandemic until Aug. 24, children between 5 and 17 years old have accounted for 12% of all COVID-19 cases recorded in Oklahoma. 

Oklahomans between 12 and 17 years old, the youngest eligible to receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, were also completing their COVID-19 vaccinations at a faster rate than other age groups in that time. Vaccination rates for the youngest eligible recipients jumped by almost 5% between July 31 and Aug. 21, while rates of other age groups grew between 1% and 3%.  

While OSDH data shows children represent only three of the 7,812 deaths linked to COVID-19, an Oklahoma City school district announced a boy died of the disease last week. Clarence Wayne Johnson, III, was 13 years old when he died Aug. 19 from complications from the disease, according to the Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American Student Services Facebook page.  

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told an Oklahoma State Board of Education Meeting on Thursday that schools must remain vigilant while the delta variant surges through communities. 

"Sadly, this is where I think we were all hoping we would not be," she told the board, according to The Oklahoman. "... This is not like last year. It might feel like deja vu, but the delta variant is so much more contagious, and we just need to take it very, very seriously."