Oklahoma State Representative John Waldron (D-Tulsa) told a group of medical professionals on Monday that he is troubled by the haphazard and disjointed responses to the state's COVID-19 outbreak among school district leaders.
"What I can tell you from my examination of things is that we're kind of all over the map on school openings," Waldron, a teacher himself and a member of the Oklahoma House Committee on Common Education, said on a COVID-19 videoconference organized by the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences' Project ECHO series.
"I don't believe we have a consensus among school board members about the science behind COVID-19 and appropriate responses," Waldron said. "There's still a lot of public distrust. There are communities that will favor masking in schools, there are communities that will be opposed to requiring masks in schools, and there are communities that don't want to see the schools open at all."
"So I'm afraid the picture is one of fragmentation, and that concerns me," he said.
Waldron drew attention to local districts including Tulsa Public Schools (virtual for at least nine weeks), Broken Arrow Public Schools (in-person, but delayed two weeks), and Union Public Schools, which he described as causing "a lot of turmoil."
The videoconference took place before the Union board of education voted to reject the recommendations of the Tulsa Health Department and their own superintendent and allow students to return in-person this month.
In a Tuesday Facebook post, Waldron wrote of Union's decision, "The virus doesn't care what we choose to believe. If we ignore the science, the virus will make our decisions for us."
Dr. Jennifer Clark of the University of Tulsa's Oxley College of Health Sciences has expressed concern in recent weeks over what a return of both K-12 students and college students to their campuses could mean for local infection trends.