OKLAHOMA CITY — In light of the novel coronavirus’ continued spread, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday morning to move public school instruction to distance learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year.
Every school district is required to submit a distance learning plan for approval to the state Department of Education for approval, with instruction to start by April 6. Each local school district will determine its end date.
In order to address student needs and community resources, state officials acknowledged those plans will look wildly different among the more than 500 districts across Oklahoma. Surveys have been sent out to district leaders to ascertain community internet access and discussions are underway with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority to provide supplemental material during daytime broadcast hours.
“We will provide more support at the state level and have asked for additional support at the federal level,” state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said.
“If this pandemic underscores anything, it’s that we must care for one another, help one another and love one another. This is one way to do that right now.”
With in-person instruction suspended for the remainder of the academic year, the board also waived the statutory calendar requirements for the number of hours or days students must be in school. In a typical school year, students are required to be in school for at least six hours per day and academic calendars must be at least either 1,080 instructional hours or 180 days long.
A waiver was also granted regarding student attendance and funding level. Normally, attendance is a factor when determining per pupil funding. To avoid penalizing districts, the state school board will rely on attendance figures through March 12, which was the Thursday prior to spring break.
Although the state-issued school district report cards will not be issued for the 2019- 2020 school year, Hofmeister made a point to note that individual student report cards will still be issued by school districts and districts do not have the option to just call it a school year.
“We are not going to allow districts to say, ‘This is too much. We’re done,’” she said.
Under the terms of the board’s vote, all extracurricular activities and in-person instruction are done for the rest of the school year. The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association is scheduled to meet Thursday in Oklahoma City. Among the items on its agenda are possibly formally cancelling the state basketball tournaments for Classes 2A and up, as well as other spring sports, such as track, slow-pitch softball and baseball.
“I’ve heard from a lot of students personally who are just devastated that they won’t get to finish out the school year,” state school board member Jennifer Monies said. “I know it’s hard. It’s hard on parents from all walks of life. I know the weight of this decision does not go unnoticed by this board. However, given the emphasis and need to protect the health of students and staff, I feel like we have to do to move online and get educational instruction to students as best we can.”