oklahoma schools

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

The coronavirus has thrown each individual’s education into chaos. And Oklahoma teachers, students and administrators are trying to bring order back into students’ lives.

But billions of dollars from the federal government should give schools the opportunity to work at mitigating learning loss.

Oklahoma’s State Department of Education announced Monday the start of a new multiyear initiative to best leverage those monies called Ready Together Oklahoma.

It will begin this summer, State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.

Epic Schools

Epic Charter Schools’ governing board voted shortly after midnight Wednesday to reform its controversial learning fund.

Starting in July, the details of the fund will be available for public inspection for the first time.

The learning fund gives up to $1,000 to students who are enrolled in the school for educational purposes. In the previous five years, it’s accrued almost $80 million.

Oklahoma Watch

Several Tulsa-area school boards voted Monday to let their districts' attorneys challenge the State Board of Education's decision to give charter schools an equal share of state funding.

In a five-hour special meeting on Friday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to keep an indigenous-led charter school on probation and to place an Oklahoma City district on probation.

The board could have terminated Sovereign Community School’s contract, but they praised operations director Stacie Thrasher and founding board member Kyla Molina for working to improve its governance and solve financial problems.

Serge Melki

Oklahoma Republican lawmakers again resurrect a controversial bill that appeared done for the session.

Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant) in committee on Tuesday amended a House bill on emergency plans for athletics events to bring back a Senate bill to ban the teaching of "divisive concepts," a push back against analyzing issues like systemic racism.

Governor's office

Gov. Kevin Stitt wasted no time in signing bills to implement major education policy reforms he asked for in February during his state of the state address.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 2078 and Senate Bill 783 on Wednesday. Stitt signed the bills hours later.

The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association dismissed an announcing crew from the girls state basketball tournament after one of them used a racial slur toward a team during an online broadcast.

Tulsa Airport

Next week is spring break, and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart has some advice for families who may be considering getting out of town.

File Photo

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed its version of school open transfer legislation, identical to what the House passed last week.

Senate Bill 783 allows students up to two transfers per year outside of the district they live in, though district boards of education can deny their application for disciplinary problems or attendance issues. The legislation requires regular reports on denied transfers.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The full Oklahoma House passed bills on Wednesday to make education policy changes championed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma House committees advanced legislation this week that would accomplish public education policy changes Gov. Kevin Stitt pushed in his state of the state address.

House Bill 2078 would change the statewide funding formula so initial allocations are based on districts’ average weighted attendance from the preceding school year, rather than letting them use the higher of the past two years.

American Academy of Pediatrics

It appears Oklahoma teachers, who were bumped up a priority group in December, may start receiving COVID vaccinations by the end of the month.

Gov. Kevin Stitt is one of the loudest voices calling for Oklahoma students to attend in-person classes. That’s why in December, he announced teachers would move up in the line for vaccines. But they’re still behind people over 65 who are receiving vaccines now and those with comorbidities, who are next in line.

While they were suspended last school year, there will be some changes to the Oklahoma School Report Cards when they return. 

Going forward, the single English language and math achievement indicator will be separated into a performance and an improvement indicator. Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris said trying to combine a snapshot and a longer-term outlook into a single indicator was complicated.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday voted to give districts another year before they must seek a waiver to go on four-day school weeks.

Under state law, districts wanting to have fewer than the minimum 165 days of instruction would have to seek a waiver from the state department of education starting with the 2021–22 school year. The board’s decision postpones the waiver requirement until 2022–23. At all grade levels, the most recent Oklahoma School Report Card was part of the eligibility requirements.

Updated Jan. 15, 4:40 p.m.  

Tulsa Public Schools students will not start returning to school later this month as planned.

The TPS Board voted 4–3 in a special meeting Friday to keep students on distance learning until March 22, citing local COVID numbers and a recommendation by Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

Board members John Croisant, Jerry Griffin and Jennettie Marshall voted against moving back students' return. Members Shawna Keller, Suzanne Schreiber, Jania Wester and Stacey Woolley voted for it.

Pixnio

Insisting on in-person options statewide, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a new policy Tuesday aimed at reducing school quarantines for COVID-19.

"Students and teachers exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 in school will no longer be required to quarantine as long as the exposure happened in a classroom setting [and] everyone was wearing masks and following other appropriate protocols, like social distancing," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye.

Oklahoma educators responding to a survey said they’re worried about their students' academic progress and well-being, worried about their health, and worried the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

Most of the more than 3,100 responses to the Oklahoma Education Association’s pandemic survey came from classroom teachers on the job more than five years. Just 4% believed the worst of the pandemic is behind them.

There will be no Oklahoma School report cards for the current year.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend them for one year because of upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. State testing factors heavily into the A–F report cards and is set to go on, but all of the data that goes into them will somehow be affected.

Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris told the board, for example, students didn’t test last year because of a federal waiver. Now, there’s no way to measure academic growth over the past year.

Gov. Kevin Stitt will announce on Thursday new measures aimed at getting kids back in school.

Stitt said they were coming at a news conference announcing the COVID-19 vaccine’s arrival in southwest Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon.

File photo

Opposition to Oklahoma’s first-in-the-nation, temporary in-school quarantine program is growing.

Democratic lawmakers and the 40,000-member Oklahoma Education Association have put out statements against the proposal to let students exposed to someone with COVID-19 at school spend their two-week quarantine in school but segregated from other students and subject to frequent testing.

Oklahoma Watch

While state testing for the current year is on for now, its impact on Oklahoma school report cards is up in the air.

Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris said in a statewide COVID update last week while the Oklahoma State Department of Education wants data from testing, they know it will not be as reliable because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

KWGS News File Photo

Despite Gov. Kevin Stitt telling schools he wants all students back in their classrooms after winter break, teachers are in the third of four phases in Oklahoma’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Many education officials expected they would be a higher priority, considering the push to have all kids back in school as soon as possible. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told district officials in a coronavirus update last week that nearly 70% of the state’s then-almost 30,000 active cases were among kids 5 to 17 years old.

Wikipedia

Starting Monday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health will allow 14-day, in-school quarantines for students potentially exposed to the coronavirus at school.

The agency released guidelines on Wednesday for the temporary program, which will let students participate in distance learning under supervision and with better access to technology and nutrition resources.

Quarantined students are to be kept separate from other students, masked and distanced from each other at all times.

Needpix

Oklahoma’s state testing window for the current school year will start two weeks sooner and end one week later than originally planned.

The State Board of Education on Thursday approved changing the initially planned window of April 20 through May 17. Math, English language and science assessments in grades three through eight can now be started any time between April 6 and May 24.

Wikipedia

The Oklahoma State Department of Health may let schools get more involved in tracing their COVID cases.

Interim State Epidemiologist Jared Taylor said outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, the state health department has been doing the heavy lifting, but schools have said the agency is being too "forceful."

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will ask lawmakers for just under $3.2 billion for fiscal year 2022. 

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the agency is obligated to make a budget request that accurately reflects the needs of students, but the state’s finances are a factor.

"We actually are asking for not even what we asked for last year, but less," Hofmeister said.

The education request represents a total increase of almost $191 million from this year’s appropriation but is about $107 million less than the agency’s last budget request.

Courtesy

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several Oklahoma House Democrats requested a legal opinion Monday on Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to spend federal coronavirus relief funds to send students to private schools.

Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group requested a formal opinion from state Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Stitt faced criticism in July when he announced his plan to spend $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to allow Oklahoma families to access $6,500 in funds for private-school tuition.

Owasso Public Schools is the latest district to pull the plug on distance learning ahead of schedule.

The district announced Friday students will return to the classroom Sept. 17.

Officials decided last month to start the year with at-home learning until Tulsa County spent two consecutive weeks at yellow or green on a color-coded alert system. That has not happened yet.

Jenks Public Schools students are going back to school next week.

Yes, they started the year Aug. 24 in distance learning, but in an email to parents, administrators said students will come back in person on Sept. 10. They cite a decline in COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County.

The original trigger set for an in-person return was moving from orange to yellow in the state’s COVID Alert System. That hasn’t happened yet, but they  said cases are "substantially lower" than when they decided on distance learning to start the year a month ago.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday extended school nutrition waivers, allowing districts to continue practices like feeding kids whether they’re enrolled or not through the end of 2020.

The extension makes it easier for schools to get meals to kids who are on a distance learning plan and track them for reimbursement. Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Bernard said it also makes things easier on families.

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