Stillwater parents file suit against school district demanding full-time, in-person learning while Medical Center reveals COVID-19 unit is full

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Stillwater Medical Center revealed a surge plan is in place at their hospital the same day a group of parents filed an injunction against the school district wanting students in class five days a week. 

Stillwater Public Schools says they consult with the state on how learning should look each week, but some parents are adamant it should be their choice. 

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Payne County sits in the Orange Level 2 zone. 

“If they aren’t going to do what’s right for our children, this is what’s going to take,” Stillwater parent Dawndra Berkenbile said. 

Berkenbile and six other Stillwater parents say they have hired an attorney and are taking their concerns straight to a judge. 

“They are grossly departing from their duty to provide that education,” attorney Noah Fontanez said. 

In the lawsuit, attorney Noah Fontanez calls the decision to not be in the classroom full time “grossly negligent.” The suit also says the district’s restrictions are “dramatic” and “unwarranted.”

“Never in my child’s life has he dealt with depression until he’s dealt with this isolation,” Berkenbile said. 

At the center of the litigation is superintendent Dr. Marc Moore and several school board members. 

“I can say when people bring concerns whether it be litigation or just an email we carefully consider those concerns,” Stillwater Superintendent Dr. Marc Moore said. 

“The children are at their breaking point,” Fontanez said. “They are desperately needing to get back in school.”

Monday was the first time some kids were back in the classroom. The district decided to move students to a staggered A-B schedule after being completely virtual for weeks. 

“We try to base our decisions on ones who are knowledgeable,” Dr. Moore said. 

“We are at capacity,” Stillwater Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Cara Pence said. “Part of the problem is space and another part is staffing.”

Stillwater Medical Center tells KFOR its staff is struggling with overflow after hitting their ICU limit. 

According to medical officials, beds right now are slim to none. 

Dr. Pence says they only have one COVID-19 medical bed left after doubling the coronavirus unit. 

“People are sicker now because they didn’t seek medical help out of fear, so come on in and we will have to find a way,” Dr. Pence said. 

Meanwhile, some parents say they are still ready to go to trial. 

“The detriment that it’s doing to our children’s mental is far worse than what the chances are of getting COVID-19 and what it will do to their physical health,” Berkenbile said. 

The case is now waiting for a judge to sign off on a motion for hearing, where the legal team will have to prove actual harm. 

At last check, 21 Stillwater students have tested positive for COVID-19, and eight of them are active cases. 

Meanwhile, 104 students and staff have been quarantined in total. 

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