The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a waiver for the upcoming school year on Thursday that will let Saturday sessions count toward instructional time requirements.
Previously, individual districts had to apply for the waiver, a process that could lead to them waiting a month until the next education board meeting. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said districts need the ability to change their plans quickly because while COVID-19 has likely not run its full course, she does not foresee a state-level response like closing all schools again in the fall.
"But there is going to be need for quarantine, for closure. We just feel that extra opportunity to have a Saturday coming to school — and that counts if a family wants to or if a school wants to use that — is just simply a flexibility that districts appreciate," Hofmeister said.
The waiver was approved on a 5–2 vote. Board member Estela Hernandez cast one of the votes against it. She said students went through a lot of stress this past year because of the coronavirus and should have their weekends protected, and the state should come up with a different solution.
"I think if there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, is for us to be able to utilize technology to the greatest extent, and I think there’s more to be done there," Hernandez said.
Holding Saturday sessions would be optional, and Hofmeister said the intent is not to have six-day school weeks.
The education department’s general counsel said schools within a district could make their own plans.