MPS School Board Implements Mask Mandate

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

The Marlow Public Schools Board of Education voted on Monday to implement a mandatory mask policy for all public schools, including sports and activities, for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

The decision comes on the heels of recent increases in COVID-19 cases state-wide, as well as in Marlow and Stephens County, which have forced some schools to close for virtual learning and limit attendance at sporting events.

“We want to have in-person instruction as much as possible,” said Superintendent George Coffman. “But we’ve got to slow some of these numbers down.”

Marlow Middle School and High School were forced to move to virtual learning the week before Thanksgiving break due to 16 staff members being on quarantine at the time. The virtual week, coupled with the week off for the holiday, allowed staff members to fulfill quarantine requirements before returning to work last week.

“Right now we’re okay,” Coffman said. “Kid-wise, we probably have 6 to 8 on quarantine each week. Not necessarily because they’re positive [for COVID-19], but because a family member is or because someone in their home has to quarantine.”

Coffman said that a mask mandate in schools and at activities would help slow the spread of the virus and offer an extra means of protection for all involved.

“There are two priorities in doing this,” he said. “Number one, we want to limit the number of students and faculty on quarantine. Number two, we want to allow attendance at activities and sports.”

Coffman said that some area schools had taken steps to limit the number of tickets allotted to players for sporting events, and that’s not something he wants to do.

“A player might be given three tickets to a game to limit attendance but maybe that kid has eight family members who want to see him play,” Coffman said. “We don’t want to have to do that, so we’re hoping that the masks will help keep the numbers down.

“That means spectators, students, staff, everyone at all activities needs to wear a mask. We want activities to continue, in-person school to continue. This is the best way we know to do that.”

The vote was 4-0 in favor of the mandate, with one board member absent.

Earlier in the agenda, the Board entered executive session in order to complete the annual evaluation of Superintendent George Coffman for the 2020-2021 school year. Discussion of renewing Coffman’s contract for the 2021-2022 school year will be on the January 2021 agenda for the Board’s consideration.

In her report to the Board, Marlow Elementary School principal Kim Kizarr said that the recent food drive for the Marlow Samaritans had garnered nearly 8,000 non-perishable items and raised $2335.00 for the food bank. She also said that Red Ribbon Week’s “Make Change Day” had raised over $1200 for the Backpack Buddy program.

Kizarr also reported that the school had held its first-ever virtual Veterans’ Day program in November and that the cafeteria staff had prepared Thanksgiving lunch for all students and staff. She also said that Santa had visited the school for photos and each student received a free photo with him.

Kizarr added that December 17 will be “Tacky Sweater Day” at the school, and the 18th is the final day of the semester.

Marlow High School principal Bryan Brantley reported that Travis Phillips (9th grade) and Alexi Linden (7th grade) were named to the 2021 Oklahoma Choral Directors’ Association (ODCA) Junior High All-State Mixed Chorus and Renee Vermillion (11th grade) was named to the ODCA High School All-State Mixed Chorus. Marlow vocal music will hold a virtual concert on December 15th at 7pm, and a link to the event will be on the Marlow Vocal Music Facebook page.

Brantley also reported that Marlow High School cheer team earned the Class 4A Academic Cheer Championship with a 3.908 grade point average.

Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) saw three members participating in the virtual District competition last week; Morgan Warren in Creed Speaking, Brookelyn Taylor in New Member Facts, and Melissa Krautbauer in Children’s Literature Presentation. FCCLA members also purchased slip-resistant socks to be given to residents at Marlow Manor.

In speech/drama news, Brantley said that Marlow had just completed another virtual tournament in which 9 of 15 entries qualified for regionals. Additional virtual tournaments will be held in January.

Brantley also said that the Media Production class has completed several short films in varying genres: Silent Movie, Fantasy, Noir, and now Westerns.

He also reported that the National Honor Society had donated $400.00 to the Marlow Samaritans to be used for holiday food baskets.

Middle School principal Ross Ridge was unable to attend Monday’s meeting; activity updates will be reported as they become available.

The next meeting of the Marlow Public Schools Board of Education will be Monday, January 4.

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