A week after an Oklahoma school district changed its quarantine rules to allow some students to return to school after known contact with a COVID-19 positive person, the state Department of Education and the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reminded school districts they must follow state quarantine guidelines.

“To be clear, and as has been previously communicated to individuals and school leaders, school districts are not the authority for making determinations regarding quarantine and/or isolation,” stated the letter, which was signed by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye. 

The letter, which was obtained by The Frontier, follows a vote by the Woodward Public Schools board to no longer require the quarantine of students who wear a mask and are exposed to another COVID-19 positive person also wearing a mask, which is against Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health guidelines.

The state requires a 14-day quarantine for a student who was within six feet of a person for an accumulation of 15 minutes that tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of a mask.  

First reported by KOSU, Woodward’s superintendent said the change was grounded in science and in response to the district having hundreds of students quarantined at a time. 

“Our overarching goal or mindset is… our kids are safer at school,” said Kyle Reynolds, the superintendent of the 2,500-student school district in northwest Oklahoma.

But the state’s top education and health care officials said school districts cannot choose to not follow state quarantine guidelines.

“School districts should note that any efforts by individuals, including school officials, to not follow the recommendations and requirements of public health officials may subject their school district and individual actors to future action and liability,” the letter stated. 

The letter sent to districts: