Governor Stitt signs executive order to address teacher shortage
ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - As schools across Oklahoma are forced to close due to the latest COVID-19 spike Governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order in an attempt to keep classes in person.
The omicron variant has caused cases to rise across the nation, including in Oklahoma.
“This is actually our third surge and its actually the highest peak we’ve had,” Governor Stitt said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The surge has forced many teachers to miss work and made finding substitute teachers difficult, forcing schools to close.
Something Stitt has been outspokenly against since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We know how damaging it can be for kids, for their academic performance we’ve seen over the last couple of years for the mental health of young people when schools are closed down for an extended period of time,” Stitt said.
The Governor’s new executive order addresses the lack of educators by allowing any state employee to fill in as a substitute teacher.
“These aren’t people that are coming in to be a full replacement for a teacher,” said Oklahoma secretary of education Ryan Walters. “These are people that are coming in, volunteering to help monitor classes, help continue a lesson plan that a teachers provided for them.”
Those who sign up to fill in will be paid through their regular job rather than the school after meeting a few requirements.
“We have to have a background check and were working to make sure that is as speed lined as possible so that they can get inside the schools,” Walters said. “The second part is the schools helping onboard these volunteers.”
Governor Stitt says this concept isn’t new, state employees have been filling in for lots of roles since the start of the pandemic.
He expects to see people volunteering as early as Wednesday and hopes that the familiar approach can help keep students in classrooms.
“They’ve answered the call they’ve switched and moved to different state agencies where we needed help at that specific time,” Stitt said. “Right now that means stepping up to help our schools.”
State employees interested in volunteering can visit this website for more information.
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