Joy Hofmeister

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said on Tuesday that she considers it unacceptable that a sizeable number of Oklahoma school districts have declined to require masks as they reopen for in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oklahoma Watch

While all but one county in Oklahoma meet the threshold of new coronavirus infections for school masking policies, 35% of districts have no mask requirement in place, according to a survey by the State Department of Education.

In approving the department’s COVID safety protocols last month, the State Board of Education cut requirements down to recommendations, including those for masks for students, teachers and staff. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the lack of mask requirements is still concerning.

Twitter / @UofOklahoma

A sorority house at Oklahoma State. The Sooners football team. The faculty and staff of Broken Arrow Public Schools.

All have been sites of recent coronavirus outbreak "clusters." As more districts and universities bring students back to school buildings and campuses, epidemiologists and other public health experts are worrying that Oklahoma's trends in new infections, which have been slowly tacking downward in recent days, could change course.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

It was an exclusive meeting.

After abundant anticipation of a visit to Oklahoma by Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force since President Trump announced it earlier this month, at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa on Sunday, she was kept separated from the public, the media, and even the director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Oklahoma will spend $10 million from its federal coronavirus funds to buy personal protective equipment for distribution to schools.

That includes enough masks for every student and teacher to have two, as well as face shields, gloves and gowns for school personnel. The equipment will be sent to regional warehouses for distribution with a goal of delivering it by Aug. 14.

Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle), a 26-year educator, said students belong back in schools, and not just because in-person instruction is superior.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With new coronavirus infections increasing more rapidly among younger people than other demographics, Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department said that the return to school for districts in Tulsa County should be all-virtual for now due to the severity of the local outbreak.

Facebook / Tulsa Public Schools

Following the Oklahoma State Board of Education's vote to not require a statewide COVID-19 policy, some Oklahoma school district officials say they're now being put in a tough spot.

"It's just much more difficult than anything I've dealt with in 47 years in the business," said Terry Davidson, finance director and former superintendent for Comanche Public Schools, of the pandemic, on a virtual meeting of the Oklahoma Schools Insurance Group on Monday.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma schools will not be required by the state to institute any specific COVID safety protocols if the pandemic worsens after kids return to school.

On a 4–3 vote Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a motion to reduce any requirements in a proposed set of COVID safety protocols to recommendations.

Facebook / Crossover Preparatory Academy

Democratic lawmakers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are pushing back against Gov. Kevin Stitt's announcement that he will award $10 million of federal coronavirus education funding to private schools.

Oklahoma State Department of Education.

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.

KWGS News File photo

Following the state's first known coronavirus-related death of a child, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said Sunday that schools will not be able to reopen unless Oklahomans do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Students need to learn. We want schools to reopen this fall, but for that to happen, it is critical that Oklahomans take decisive actions now to mitigate spread of the virus," said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a statement.

Wikipedia

A month out from the first day of school, a pair of teachers turned state representatives have taken thousands of teachers’ questions about how this fall will work to the State Department of Education.

Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) said federal plans aside, many Oklahoma teachers are waiting to hear from their own districts about how they'll deal with the coronavirus.

Chris Polansky

While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn't take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon.

"It is not to pertain to the reopening of schools," State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister said of Governor Kevin Stitt's announcement that parts of Oklahoma's economy will begin to reopen on April 24th. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Oklahoma schools served more than 1.7 million meals to students late last month as schools closed for the rest of the year.

According to numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition, 1,784,608 meals were served at 645 sites across 406 school districts from March 23–31.

The State Board of Education approved on March 25 closing schools for the rest of the academic year to help limit the spread of COVID-19.