The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that gatherings of 50 or more be canceled for eight weeks. It would be negligent to not consider our schools at this time.
This decision must come from the Governor. Unless the Governor and/or the State Superintendent of Public Instruction close schools across the state, districts all over Oklahoma will be handling closures very differently.
District superintendents that I’ve spoken to said they are prepared to feed kids twice a day. We are working on federal waivers, but regardless of whether we receive the waivers in time we must and will feed our children.
Options include opening school cafeterias for a “grab and go” option similar to how they did it during the teacher walkout, and/or delivering meals to bus stops in the mornings and during the lunch hour.
We are working on a waiver that would allow school districts to be exempt from state testing if warranted.
The state board has the authority to “forgive” missed days. Schools are required to meet 1,080 hours of instructional time. If extending spring break causes schools to fall short of that, then the State School Board could take action to establish a new number, in effect reducing the required number of hours. If the State Board chooses not to do that, then schools would continue operations in June.
In addition, federal relief dollars should be used to give stipends to caretakers to help offset the costs of childcare.
We’re in this together, Oklahoma. These are not easy times and require tough decisions by our top elected officials.
Mickey Dollens is a Democrat state Representative from Oklahoma City, where he formerly taught at U.S. Grant High School.
Editor’s note: Oklahoma’s Department of Education is telling schools not to worry about assessment benchmarks, attendance-based funding or other requirements when considering whether to close in response to the growing threat of COVID-19. While Oklahoma’s top school official isn’t ready to say schools across the state should close, she said the department wants districts to feel free to consider local health concerns.