(CNN) — An Oklahoma newspaper has retracted a coronavirus-related story it published on April Fools Day that caused panic among parents and teachers.
The Sapulpa Times also issued an apology on its website for a story that claimed Sapulpa students would have to repeat the entire school year.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education ordered all public schools to close beginning March 17 due to the coronavirus, including the schools in Sapulpa, which is southwest of Tulsa.
“The story was not endorsed by, approved by, or even known about by any of the Sapulpa School’s Administration when it went live on Wednesday morning, but SPS are the ones now having to deal with frantic parents and angry teachers,” Micah Choquette, the owner and editor of the Sapulpa Times, said in the letter.
Choquette said the story was an innocent joke and an attempt to find humor in “a time where it’s sorely needed.” The newspaper retracted the story almost immediately after it was published.
Sapulpa Public Schools said on Wednesday that officials received a “number of calls, texts, and Facebook messages” from concerned parents regarding the story.
“It was an April Fool’s Joke. An ill-advised and in poor taste April Fool’s Joke,” the district said on Facebook.
“To be clear, Sapulpa Public Schools had no prior knowledge of the post and as soon as we were made aware of it, we contacted the publication and asked that the post and article be removed.”
The Oklahoma State School board ordered all Oklahoma public schools to implement an online Distance Learning Plan for the rest of school year, beginning on April 6.
Oklahoma has confirmed at least 988 positive cases and 38 deaths because of the coronavirus. The US has reported more than 245,500 cases, with more than 6,000 deaths.