The Oklahoma State Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday morning to discuss and vote on ending on-site learning for the remainder of the 2020 school year and switching to a distance learning plan due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The meeting was historic as it was the first time in history that a state school board meeting was held in a virtual format.
The board unanimously voted to suspend in-person education and go to a distance learning format with each school district ending education on or after May 8-15.
There was extensive information provided and discussed regarding specific instructions for school districts.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister stated that there is a plan for a distance learning framework and resources will be available by the end of the week on the state's website at sde.ok.gov. "These resources and guidelines will be of real value," Hofmeister stated.
School buildings will be closed to all non-essential personnel although those needed to provide essential services will be allowed on-site such as food service personnel, grounds and maintenance workers and administrative personnel.
Hofmeister also discussed the waivers of state testing for the year as well as plans for providing meals to students. The state is working with the US Dept. of Agriculture to receive waivers to provide meals for students. Plans include school districts providing grab and go meals, delivery of meals by bus routes, as well as delivery of up to ten meals at a time for those not on a regular bus meals.
One board member pointed out that distance learning does not necessarily mean "online" learning and that not all students will have access to computers and the internet. She pointed out that it will be up to the local school districts to adapt and make provisions for those students.
Another board member acknowledged the affect of the closure of buildings and on-site instructions for the seniors of 2020. "We need to take into account how this will affect them." She also noted that they need to be acknowledged and not "shut out" their four years of hard work.
Hofmeister stated that she agrees that there should be some type of graduation ceremony and acknowledgment for the seniors. She said she has heard of many creative ways that individual school districts are considering to honor their seniors. She described one school district that is considering a a virtual graduation ceremony that would allow people to watch from all around the country. The ceremony would include photos of each senior with a list of accomplishments and also include the traditional student speeches.
"The weight of this decision does not go unnoticed by this board," said Hofmeister. "But to protect the health of our students we have to move to online learning.
"It's 100% worth the struggle," Hofmeister added. "This is temporary but we will have to continue to revisit and see what it looks like for summer and fall instruction."
KXMX News Staff
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