Few students in 2 Oklahoma districts opt out of mask mandate

August 18, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Just 61 of about 30,000 Oklahoma City public school students have opted out of a newly adopted mask requirement, a district spokeswoman said Wednesday, while Santa Fe South charter school reported no opt-outs among its approximately 3,600 students.

Both districts announced masking policies last week with opt-out options for reasons such as medical or religious restrictions.

Oklahoma City district spokesperson Crystal Raymond said district officials declined to speculate on why fewer than 1% of students have chosen to opt out as of the end of the day Tuesday.

“I don’t think we can speculate on the ‘why.’ That’s just how many have been submitted in two days,” Raymond said.

Santa Fe South Superintendent Chris Brewster said more parents may eventually choose to exempt their children from masking, but they currently see it as a good idea.

“I think strongly ... the vast majority think this (masking) is just one piece of mitigation to keep schools open” for in-person classes, Brewster said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Brewster said one of the district’s approximately 350 staff members has opted out.

A state law approved earlier this year and signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt bans school mask mandates, but Stitt commended both districts for the requirements, citing the opt-out provisions.

There were 2,360 new COVID-19 cases with 1,385 hospitalizations Wednesday, including 378 patients under intensive care, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported.

The seven-day average of new cases was 2,210, up from 1,657 on Aug. 2.

Health officials say the surge is due to the highly contagious delta variant of the virus and few people being vaccinated in the state.

The health department reports just over 1.6 million of the state’s nearly 4 million residents are fully vaccinated.