State Board Of Ed To Discuss Possibility Of Mask Requirement For Schools

Jul 20, 2020

At a meeting scheduled for Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education is expected to discuss the possibility of implementing a mask requirement for schools that reopen for in-person learning this fall.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who heads the State Department of Education, said a system is still being developed, but that a policy would likely be tiered, with recommendations or requirements based upon the status of a school's community on Oklahoma's color-coded COVID Alert System.

"From just a recommendation at a certain level, to a full all-students, or closure of schools if it is in a highly volatile color code that represents dangerous spread," Hofmeister said in a weekly COVID update posted to Youtube.

Hofmeister said that relatively poor overall health outcomes in Oklahoma compared to other states makes it even more imperative to get a mask policy right.

"We have more children who have asthma, diabetes, and other comorbities," Hofmeister said. "We also have teachers who also have poor health conditions that would make them more susceptible, but also the average age of the teacher places more of our teachers in harm's way should they contract the virus."

Following the state's first coronavirus pediatric death, of a 13-year-old girl in Comanche County, Hofmeister issued a statement calling mask wearing "a small sacrifice for the sake of saving lives."

Some Tulsa-area districts, including Union and Jenks, have announced mask requirements as part of their return plans for the fall.