Oklahoma education board OKs safety plan, makes it optional


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved a COVID-19 response plan for actions local districts should take to slow the spread of coronavirus. But the board narrowly voted to make the plan optional instead of mandatory. Confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma surpassed 28,800 Thursday and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 increased by three. The Oklahoma State Department of Health said there are a reported 28,802 cases and 477 deaths. The actual number of positive cases is likely much higher since many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction released the following in response to today’s vote:

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 23, 2020) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the following remarks after the State Board of Education, on a 4-3 vote, disapproved the “requirements” contained in the Oklahoma School Safety Protocols in favor of making them “recommendations.” The proposal would have required face masks for all adults and students in public school buildings in counties where community spread of COVID-19 is occurring as designated by an Oklahoma State Department of Health color-coded map designating COVID-19 risk levels.

“Today’s vote is very disappointing and one that likely will stoke more concerns for teachers, parents and families with a new school year only weeks away. We all realize how important it is for schools to reopen. But we are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19 cases sharply rising in our state. I believe it entirely appropriate that the State Board establish a floor of recommended and required protocols to ensure a safer environment for all in the school community – teachers, staff and students. Now that the board has made its decision, we strongly urge districts across the state to do the right thing and demonstrate the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ by masking up and following social distancing guidelines. In the meantime, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will continue working to secure the PPE our schools need.”