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Oklahoma Educators Begin Prepping To Offset Pandemic Learning Loss With Federal Funds

Robby Korth
StateImpact Oklahoma

The coronavirus has thrown each individual’s education into chaos. And Oklahoma teachers, students and administrators are trying to bring order back into students’ lives.

But billions of dollars from the federal government should give schools the opportunity to work at mitigating learning loss.

Oklahoma’s State Department of Education announced Monday the start of a new multiyear initiative to best leverage those monies called Ready Together Oklahoma.

It will begin this summer, State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.

“We arguably face the greatest challenge in education in modern history,” Hofmeister said. “And that is, how do we ensure that our kids will rebound from the pandemic stronger than ever?”

Answering that question will look different across Oklahoma.

Non-profit organization leaders, urban and rural superintendents flanked Hofmeister during her announcement at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in South Oklahoma City. And how they’ll lead the recovery in their communities will look different.

Part of the investment from the state will start with $6 million toward the Oklahoma Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs and the Oklahoma Alliance of YMCAs. Hofmeister said the money is to support those organizations’ summer programming because they “have strong statewide infrastructures where we can funnel those funds right away and make good work with this summer.”

An additional $8 million will be made available to other organizations through a grant process soon.

It will largely be the responsibility of individual districts to catch students up over the summer, though.

At Sand Springs Public Schools for example, hundreds of students haven’t set foot in a classroom for more than a year, superintendent Sherry Durkee said.

“For many children this year has been extremely challenging,” she said. “We have a large number of students who depend on our schools for food, clothing, emotional support and so much more.”

The district — outside Tulsa — will offer a plethora of summer enrichment programs to prepare students for the rigor of academic life but also to resocialize them as they look to move forward in their education.

Oklahoma City Public Schools will offer many similar programs, said superintendent Sean McDaniel.

Federal money will go a long way to support it. The district will run 30 school bus routes to make sure kids can get to various activities and stay engaged. Meals will also be provided to students throughout the city, he said.

Rural districts face similar challenges, said Kyle Reynolds, superintendent of Woodward Public Schools. Again, summer programming will be important and will focus on engagement and field trips, he said.

Though most Woodward students were in person for the school year, quarantines and isolations were common.

“Our students, our teachers, our parents, our community of all felt these pressure points both physically and emotionally during the last year,” he said. “Now is the time for healing.”

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