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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As many students prepare for summer break, one Oklahoma City middle school was forced to send students home early due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the school.

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma City Public School District announced that Taft Middle School, including the Taft 5th Grade Center at Linwood, would remain closed for the rest of school year.

“This decision was made in consultation with Oklahoma City-County Health Department and out of an abundance of caution after a large number of positive COVID-19 cases and close contact exposures were reported to OKCPS,” said school officials.

Now, we’re learning more about the cases and the number of students who are being told to quarantine.

Officials with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department told KFOR that nine students tested positive for COVID-19 and 150 people are now quarantined.

Authorities say the students with COVID-19 were in different parts of the school, which is what concerned the health department’s epidemiologist team.

“Contact tracing is done at each OKCPS school site, and this data is reported to the district’s 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 for further assessment and guidance. 

After consulting with OCCHD officials, the decision to move to distance learning was made out of an abundance of caution and in an attempt to “reset.” OCCHD epidemiologists suggest a “reset” of two weeks anytime there is evidence of transmission occurring in a school facility. If this event had occurred in the middle of the school year, we would have followed OCCHD guidance and closed the school to in-person instruction for two weeks in order to interrupt transmission. Because we are at the conclusion of the school year, our “reset” extends after the last day of instruction. It does, however, provide an opportunity for Taft Middle School students to safely return to our Summer Learning programs which are slated to begin on June 7.

As of this morning, we have 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. 

That said, the total number of confirmed positive cases and exposures wasn’t the only data point that initiated this closure. 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. Upon hearing this, OCCHD officials suggested that the best way to interrupt this transmission would be to close the facility and move to distance learning, which OKCPS did immediately.

The safety of our students, families and staff is always our top priority. OKCPS contact tracers are working closely with our public health officials to manage the situation at Taft Middle School, as we also continue to monitor COVID-19 impacts across the rest of the district. Please note that we have not seen heightened levels of transmission at any other OKCPS site.”

Statement from OCCHD

All Taft students will learn from home until Wednesday, May 26, which is the last day of school for the district.