Ever since the pandemic began in late March, officials have been scrambling to come up with safe options for citizens. The schools closed down for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, with thoughts of reopening on time come August.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the virus, many officials are forced to retract original statements and changing their train of thought. It may seem like the officials do not know what they are doing, however, that is not the case. It is because they are in a situation they have never experienced before. Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is one of the officials who was forced to change to Plan B, and possibly even Plan C.
In an interview with KOCO News 5 on July 7, Hofmeister was in favor of reopening schools in the fall, citing a learning loss that is harming the children. She also stated that school is essential for Oklahoma’s children, while also committing to safety from the pandemic.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education even submitted a press release championing for reopening schools in August.
“For a multitude of reasons, it is crucial that schools reopen for students this fall, not the least of which being the education of our children after the learning loss of last school year,” the press release stated. “At the same time, it is critical that we take every precaution to protect the health and wellbeing of teachers, support staff and students. School is vital for our kids, and this pandemic demands our commitment to safety. Both commitments can and must coexist. To ensure schools are able to reopen, now it is of extreme importance that Oklahomans wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines and practice good hygiene.”
As usual, the pandemic threw a curve and Hofmeister had to regroup with her colleagues and come up with a new, safer plan. The number of COVID cases for Oklahoma is now over 20,000, and the death toll is over 400. On July 12, it was reported that Oklahoma had their first child death. A 13-year-old from Comanche who was immunocompromised succumbed to the virus.
This sad news showed officials that the virus even threatens children. Learning this new information, Hofmeister held a press release pleading with citizens to do what they can to flatten the curve.
“This heartbreaking tragedy underscores how important it is for us all to wear masks when in public, follow social distancing guidelines and practice good hygiene,” Hofmeister said while address-reopen this fall, but for that to happen, it is critical that Oklahomans take decisive actions now to mitigate spread of the virus. Wearing a mask around other people is a small sacrifice for the sake of literally saving lives. We owe it to our children, teachers and staff for them to be able to go to school knowing that strong safeguards are in place for their safety and well-being.”
Hofmeister spoke about the benefits of distance learning and acknowledged that some parents might prefer to go that route for their children. She praised the many school districts that are providing distance learning. She also reiterated the importance of children getting back in some type of learning environment.
“School is vital, especially after the significant learning loss from last spring’s building closures,” she said. “At the same time, we must take every precaution to protect our children and those who serve in schools across this state.”
Hofmeister then mentioned that a mandatory mask policy might be put in place to assist the schools in opening in August.