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State Department Of Education Head Says Schools Not Included In Governor's Reopen Plan

Chris Polansky
The Oklahoma State Board of Education meets via videoconferencing platform Zoom on Thursday, April 23rd.

While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn't take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon.

"It is not to pertain to the reopening of schools," State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister said of Governor Kevin Stitt's announcement that parts of Oklahoma's economy will begin to reopen on April 24th. 

Speaking via videoconference at a virtual meeting of the State Board of Education, Hofmeister said she would be looking to the federal government for guidance for when to resume in-person instruction and events such as graduation ceremonies.

"We would be waiting for CDC (the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to give the information about keeping our gatherings at a level that is safe," Hofmeister said.

The superintendent shared that some school districts across the state are planning to hold their graduations virtually, while others are postponing them in hopes that they can still hold a traditional ceremony.

"We know that some districts are planning to postpone to much later, in the late summer or even a gathering or reunion in the fall," Hofmeister said. "I've heard some talk about fall break."

The board also heard a presentation by Carolyn Thompson, the education department's chief of government affairs, about the more than $160 million in federal money Oklahoma is set to receive as part of Congress's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. 

The board announced on March 25th that Oklahoma schools would close for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Classes have largely moved to a distance learning model. 

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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