Stillwater parents sue school district over remote learning

Mike Seals - September 29, 2020 9:48 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Stillwater Public Schools students and their families are suffering personal and financial hardships as a result of the district’s distance and remote learning plan enacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of parents allege in a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit, filed in Payne County against the district, superintendent and board members, is demanding the district provide access to in-person classroom instruction and reopen all public school facilities.

“Education is a constitutional guarantee in Oklahoma. Our kids and families are entitled to a free and public education,” said attorney Noah Fontanez, who is representing six parents who are plaintiffs in the case. “With this curtailment, they’re simply not getting that, and it’s caused harm in the form of depression with these children, in the form of hardship financially with the families.”

The district is currently offering a mixed schedule, dubbed the A-B plan, with students reporting to in-person classes two days a week and distance learning three days a week. Payne County is among about two dozen Oklahoma counties in the Orange 2 designation, the second highest level, with between 25 and 50 confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, according to State Health Department data.

A spokesman for the district, Barry Fuxa, said the district is following Oklahoma State Department of Education guidelines for determining when to limit in-person instruction.

In a statement, the district said every administrator, board member and parent faces challenges finding the proper balance for students’ academic, social and physical wellbeing.

“It is disappointing that the pandemic has led to such a situation,” the statement read. “Stillwater Public Schools and its board desire a safe return to full-time in-person instruction, and will continue to thoughtfully consider the important issues raised by these parents’ claims.”

When a spike in coronavirus cases in the county earlier this month prompted the district to cancel the Stillwater High School football game against rival Bixby, more than 100 angry parents and students protested outside the district headquarters chanting “Let them play!”

 

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