State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has called an emergency meeting of the State Board of Education for 4 p.m. today to authorize the closure of all Oklahoma schools beginning March 17 and lasting until April 6. Hofmeister said the Oklahoma State Department of Education will closely monitor the situation with state health experts to determine if it will be necessary to extend the closure.
“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.”
“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.”
The recommended board action today will solely address the school closures. The OSDE is already working to ensure school closure does 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.