Stitt’s office defends controversial student quarantine guidelines

Mike Seals - January 13, 2021 10:58 pm

by: 

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Controversy continues after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced new school quarantine guidelines from the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday.

State Education leaders are taking shots at Stitt’s new guidelines to change student quarantine procedures, but the Governor’s Office is firing back in defense of their new measures, which they say keeps kids in the classroom.

“I am not a public health expert nor is the Governor. We must rely on the science,” said State Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

The State Superintendent responded to the new guidelines laid out by the Governor on Tuesday, which states that students who are exposed to coronavirus will not have to isolate at home as long as everyone in the classroom was wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

“Some districts refuse to let their parents send their kids to school,” said Stitt on Tuesday.

Critics say the new measures go against CDC quarantining guidance for schools.

“Now is not the time to dispense with critical safety measures that will reduce the spread and ultimately get more students back in classrooms,” said Hofmeister.

The Governor’s Office spoke with KFOR on Wednesday to defend the new guidelines.

“The CDC has said schools can operate safely and responsibly in person, and the guidance announced by OSDH is data-driven and supports the bipartisan belief that schools need to be open,” a Governor’s Office official said.

“In Oklahoma City Public Schools, 66 percent more high school students have an F in one of their classes compared to last year,” said Stitt on Tuesday.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel responded to Stitt’s comment about OKCPS student performance with a statement, saying in part, “The data he used was out of date, wildly inaccurate and very misleading.”

But we asked the Governor’s Office about it. They responded.

“We referenced the data school districts, including OKCPS, voluntarily submitted to a media outlet for a story.”

That media outlet was not KFOR.

“Quite frankly, we were confused. The Governor saying schools are safe, but he is not doing anything to ensure it,” said Alicia Priest.

The head of the State Education Association echoed the sentiments of many districts that have made statement that CDC guidelines must be used. They say the Governor is not representing all the data.

“We just think these decisions are best made by the school districts in consultation with the health departments and following CDC guidelines and all the research, not just cherry picked parts,” said Priest.

But the Governor’s Office fired back, saying the following: “[Gov. Stitt] was showing Oklahomans data that while virtual learning can be successful for many students, it doesn’t work for all students and parents deserve the right to choose between in-person or virtual options for their kids.”

But State Education officials say now is not the time to change course in the fight against COVID-19.

“All of us want to see our students back in school, just as soon as they can safely do so,” said Hofmeister.

OSDH officials tell us the governor’s new policy is optional. Schools are not required to eliminate quarantines for those who come in contact with COVID-19.

 

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