OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Officials say students who attend public schools in Oklahoma will be out of class for at least three weeks following a decision by the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
On Monday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education held an emergency meeting to authorize the closure of all Oklahoma schools due to COVID-19.
“This is not a simple decision,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister said that the meeting was necessary to prevent injury to students and staff members regarding the novel coronavirus.
The order for all accredited public schools to cease operations passed unanimously. Department officials say schools would be closed starting March 17 until April 6.
However, schools can remain closed as long as needed to protect children, and the situation will be re-evaluated closer to April 6.
“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of Oklahomans,” Hofmeister said. “It is critical that we do everything in our power to protect the health of our kids, their families, educators and all vulnerable populations. That need outweighs everything else. The OSDE has been working around the clock, and will continue to do so, to ease the burden of schools during this challenging time.”
Officials say the directive also includes all extra-curricular activities.
“This decision is not made lightly, but it is the right thing to do based on current guidance from the CDC,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “This closure will allow us time to further understand how COVID-19 is affecting Oklahoma and give students and staff a period of time to be protected from further community spread of the virus. We know closing schools has a significant impact on families, and we are committed to doing what we can to lessen that impact as we work to prioritize the health and safety of all Oklahomans.”
Officials with OSDE say they are working to ensure school closures do not negatively impact schools and school employees, including issuing guidance on state assessments, school accountability and student attendance.
This weekend, the OSDE received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on two requested waivers allowing meal service to continue during school closures.
Meals will be available at no cost to low-income children and are not required to be served in a group setting to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19.
On Monday, Oklahoma City Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel released the following the statement:
“Together, we are facing an unprecedented health crisis in our community. In our response to COVID-19, OKCPS and other districts must depend on the wisdom of our health experts and elected officials and lean on the resolve of our strong community. I am grateful for State Superintendent Hofmeister’s leadership during this crisis and for the State Board of Education’s action today. This will now allow OKCPS and other districts to remain closely aligned as we finalize our response. Tomorrow morning, our Board will come together to discuss next steps for OKCPS, and we look forward to sharing additional details with our families and staff in the coming days.”