Oklahoma Board of Education letting school districts decide how to tackle COVID-19

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 10:12 AM CDT
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ARDMORE, Oklahoma (KXII) - In a 4-3 vote Thursday morning, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted not to require masks in schools but instead recommend them and other safety procedures for the fall semester.

The board meeting featured many passionate viewpoints as teachers and parents tuned in online to express what steps they wanted the board to take before the fall semester.

Teacher Kari Phillips asked board members to delay the start of in-person learning.

“In my school district there’s no way that we would be able to do any sort of social distancing,” Phillips said. “We just don’t have the space. The amount of kids that we have in our school- it’s just not feasible.”

Parent Jami Murphy agreed.

“From a parent’s perspective, I’m terrified,” she said. “And a lot of other parents are terrified to send their kids to school.”

The board decided to not delay school or require masks across the state, but instead let districts decide for themselves based on a set of recommendations.

The guidelines mirror the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s color-coded risk system and advise districts on when to wear masks, admit visitors, host extracurricular activities and when to use online or in-person education.

In the green level, masks can stay off during physical education, recess, nap times or lunches. But as the risk increases, masks are to be worn during more activities.

There will be exemptions for students and teachers who can’t wear a mask.

Ardmore Superintendent Kim Holland said he’s glad the districts will be able to decide what to do.

“I’m very much in favor of that,” Holland said. “I think the state trying to have a one size fits all policy is a bad idea. I appreciate the fact that the state board made the decision they made.”

Holland says Ardmore City Schools will do what’s in the best interest of families and students.

“I believe it’s hard for us to say we’re absolutely gonna do anything,” he said. “We’re gonna try to be wise about what we’re doing and take care of our teachers and students and parents. But at the same time, we want to provide a quality education.”

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