Oklahoma Schools To Implement Distance Learning Plans; Buildings To Remain Closed
The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Wednesday, March 25, unanimously voted to approve a proposal from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister to keep all Oklahoma public school facilities closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and for districts to implement distance learning programs by April 6.
The closure order also applies to all extracurricular events and activities.
“Pursuant to the powers, authority, and duties vested by the Oklahoma Constitution and the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Board of Education hereby orders, effective immediately: 1. Suspension of in-person instruction and extra-curricular activities and closing of buildings for the remainder of the school year (recommended ending date on or after May 8-15, 2020) for general student and personnel attendance. The only exceptions among Oklahoma public schools and their staff shall be those who are provide (sic) nutrition services, essential core services (governance, HR, billing, maintenance and continuity of building functions, staff to maintain building access control and security measures, student enrollment) and staff for purposes of facilitating or supporting required delivery of distance learning…” read the order.
The order gives individual school districts until April 6, the date on which schools were scheduled to reopen after the initial closure period, to implement a state-approved distance learning program and resume instruction in accordance with those plans. The Oklahoma State Department of Education is currently preparing guidance for those distance learning plans.
“We are currently creating distance learning frameworks,” OSDE assistant director of communications Carrie Burkhart told the Beacon in an email. “They will be guidance for districts to implement a plan. Districts can use it or create their own plan based on their communities’ needs. We understand that everyone does not have access to internet or computers. Distance learning will look different for every district. It could include paperwork packets prepared by teachers. We’re hoping to have these frameworks available to districts by the end of this week.”
The department of education sent a survey to all superintendents aimed at determining the internet and technology infrastructure and limitations of each district. These surveys will be used to assist with the evaluation of individual district’s distance learning plans.
“Our education communities are tough, resilient, and committed,” Superintendent Hofmeister said in a press release. “They know, as we all do, that we are in this together. If this pandemic underscores anything, it is that we must help one another. We understand the challenges all Oklahomans are facing, and know we can count on our schools to provide the best education possible in a way that ensures the safety and health of students and everyone in the school and community.”
Cordell Public Schools Superintendent Brad Overton released a statement in response to the state board’s decision. In the statement he supported the decision and reiterated the district’s resolve in continuing to provide instruction to Cordell’s students.
“Today, we learned that Oklahoma students will not return to the classroom for the remainder of the current school year, following a vote by the Oklahoma State Board of Education. This action will lead Cordell Schools to implement a continuous learning plan that will allow students to complete the school year at home.
“We are sharing this information with you now so you can prepare accordingly for your family. We understand this change is in the best interest of everyone’s health, which is our greatest priority as a district. The state board’s vote also means that all extracurricular activities and special events will be canceled or postponed as well. Making these difficult decisions, we believe, is simply the right thing to do for our students, our staff and our community.
“Cordell faculty and staff members are developing a plan to ensure your child will continue to have opportunities to learn and to grow academically, especially with parental support. Academic instruction and activities will primarily be delivered and communicated via electronic methods as well as packets of information. As you can imagine, this is a significant transition for our students and our teachers. We will spend the next few days planning for this effort and will share details with your family as soon as they are available.
“There are many questions in reference to the usual end of the year activities. The time and place of events such as graduation and prom along with other banquets and activities will be communicated to the public once circumstances ensure the safety of our community.
“This is an unprecedented situation, and it has required an unprecedented response. We will get through this. We have survived tough events in the past and this will be no different.
“As soon as we identify our next steps, we will share them with you. Please stay safe. As always, we appreciate your support of Cordell Public Schools.”