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Hennessey football, volleyball games canceled due to COVID-19 exposures; 3 students, 1 staff member test positive this week

September 22, 2020 - 17:15
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/Edited 6:10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22/

How many confirmed cases of COVID-19 does it take to temporarily shut down a high school's football and volleyball programs?

"Exactly two – one infected player in each program," Hennessey Public School Superintendent Dr. Mike Woods said. "That's the nature of contact tracing and how far it has to extend to keep people safe, per health department guidelines."

Woods spoke to the Times & Free Press Tuesday evening after issuing a written statement announcing that Henessey had canceled all remaining volleyball games, canceled its football game Friday against Perry and will reschedule the Oct. 2 game against Newkirk. Those decisions were made after players, coaches and staff had to be quarantined due to close contact with a single player in each sport who tested positive for the virus.

"I want parents to understand it's not Hennessey Public Schools deciding who has to quarantine when and for how long. That is the health department's decision based on CDC guidelines," he said. "A lot of these decisions can be frustrating, but people don't understand everything that's happening behind the scenes, what's taken into consideration and how these decisions are made."

He credited the Kingfisher County Health Department and HPS school nurse Shelley Muzny with guiding the school district through the process of dealing with coronavirus issues.

"Our school nurse and county health department folks have been phenomenal," he said. "Shelley is a registered nurse and we realize she really needs to be the point person on all of this right now." 

HPS also is canceling school next Monday for an unscheduled professional day for faculty and staff to get up to speed on new virtual learning hardware and software before they have to put it to use teaching students.

"We thought we were ahead of the game, but a replacement server and new network equipment we ordered in June and expected to have in August just got here and it's putting us a little behind getting comfortable with it," Woods said. "We wanted teachers to have a day to get all their questions answered about the hardware and software before they are actually using it to teach." 

The following  is an excerpt from the written statement Woods provided to the Times & Free Press late Tuesday afternoon:

Hennessey Public School has postponed indefinitely the Friday, September 25th football game with Perry and will reschedule the Friday, October 2nd football game with Newkirk due to the majority of the players and several of the coaches and support personnel being quarantined due to close contact with a player that tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

Additionally, the Hennessey Public School volleyball team has cancelled their remaining games due to the majority of the players and several of the coaches and support personnel being quarantined due to close contact with a player that tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. The volleyball team will be eligible for the playoffs.

At this time, for the week of 09/21/2020 to 09/25/2020, Hennessey Public Schools has 3 positive Covid-19 test results, 2 students and 1 staff.

Woods also provided these testing totals for previous weeks:

•Sept. 14-18: 1 student tested positive.

•Sept. 7-11: 0 postive results.

Woods said the school only contacts students and staff considered to have been in close contact with an infected student or staff member (within six feet for at least 15 continuous minutes). Those individuals determined to have been in close contact are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, whether or not they test positive. Those who exhibit symptoms but have not been in close contact with someone who tested positive will be allowed to return to school with a negative test result, according to Woods' written statement. 

"If you have not bee contacted by the Kingfisher County Health Department or Hennessey Public Schools, your student is not affected," Woods said. "HPS will make a general announcement via the all call system idenfifying if the individual is a student or staff member and which site.

Woods said the school's COVID-19 policies are based on current CDC guidelines and failure to comply with those guidelines could cause the school to be considered negligent, resulting in "loss of ability to have extra-curricular events, and possibly an end to face-to-face instruction."