Ed Policy Group Calls for State Board to Act
Mike Seals - August 24, 2020 11:22 pm
Letter Urges BoE to Change Safety Recommendations to Requirements
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Democratic Education Policy Group sent a letter to the Oklahoma State Board of Education urging the board to use their upcoming meeting to change the COVID-19 recommendations to requirements.
The Board released the “Oklahoma School Safety Protocols, ” which made recommendations based on the White House COVID-19 Task Force color-coded alert system on July 23. By making the protocols only recommendations, the board left implementation decisions to the school districts. A recent Oklahoma Media Center report surveyed 136 districts in counties at Orange Level 2 or higher — only six started the year with distance learning.
“Schools across the state have begun to reopen with mixed results and mixed responses,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano, the primary author of the letter. “Each day we read of newly confirmed cases tied to school buildings across our state. Schools are doing their level best to manage this crisis and continue to educate our children. We applaud them. Now they need our support, and they need us to shoulder this responsibility with them.”
The policy group hopes the board acknowledges that designating teachers as essential workers also requires a deeper investment into the safety of our educators.
“Essential does not mean expendable, and this new designation must come with ample access to the right safety and sanitation practices as well as PPE supplies for all building staff to do their job as safely as possible,” Provenzano said. “We want the safe return to in-person instruction to remain the goal. The best way to do this is to follow the science and protect everyone involved.”
State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, like many of the members of the education policy group, is a former classroom teacher. He sees the recommendations as a step too short.
“I believe that this pandemic calls on all of us to put our best effort forward to defeat it,” Rosecrants said. “That best effort is a statewide response. I don’t believe COVID has to be Oklahoma’s ‘new normal.’ In fact, if we work together as a state and do what is necessary to prevent the spread of this virus, we can indeed get back to doing what is important, which includes educating our children and of course, beating Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Prevention is the key.”