Oklahoma K–12 students will not go back to their classrooms this school year.
The State Board of Education approved a plan Wednesday to keep schools closed and shift to distance learning. Some parents wanted officials to wait a couple weeks to see how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, but State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the decision had to be made now.
"It isn’t possible for districts to flip a switch and shift into that kind of delivery of education without advance notice," Hofmeister said.
Districts must start remote instruction by April 6. Board member Carlisha Bradley said they can’t just move everything to the internet.
"It’s really important that we acknowledge that distance learning does not mean that it’s technology based or online because that is an equity gap across our state," Bradley said.
The education department has suggested distance learning plans and is partnering with OETA to broadcast educational programs during the day. Districts may submit their own plans for approval.
Hofmeister said discussions on what summer and even fall learning will look like are ongoing as officials track the coronavirus outbreak.
"And we have to think in some ways that the steps we are taking right now may be a dry run for what may come," Hofmeister said.
Along with closing schools, the board approved several waivers to help districts with distance learning, including ones to let them use textbook fund dollars for other purposes and to suspend requirements for the length of school days and the school year.
Meals will continue to be provided for students across the state. The State Department of Education was approved for waivers so curbside pickup and delivery may continue through the rest of the school year, as well as a waiver so meals can be mailed to students in areas where pickup or delivery aren't feasible.
Districts will end the school year between May 8 and May 15.