State board closes all public schools for three weeks

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister talks to attendees at a town hall in Muskogee on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier
Joining the majority of other states, the Oklahoma Board of Education approved closure of all public schools across the state for at least the next three weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19.

“This is not a simple decision that we bring this recommendation to you today, and it will be challenging for many families,” said Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction.

“But this I believe requires a statewide answer.”

Schools would be able to reopen April 6, but Hofmeister said the board may decide to extend the closure.

Just four days earlier Hofmeister and Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state did not recommend school closures.

“A lot has changed since last Thursday,” Hofmeister said after Monday’s board vote. “Once we saw community transmission (of COVID-19) that was the time to seek closure.”

Oklahoma has 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health.

On Sunday, health officials announced a case of community spread, where a person in Cleveland County appeared to be infected locally.

Hofmeister said the state Department of Education would consider changing end of the year testing requirements or not holding schools accountable for some accountability measures.

“We want them to feel confident that we are going to have common sense and reasonable expectations,” Hofmeister said.

Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said some schools were considering ways to provide student meals without drawing crowds that could spread the virus.

“I know some (districts) are thinking about drive through food service to hand out at cars, delivery services or a grab and go type setup,” Hime said

The state has received permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to offer meals offsite and distribute meals through methods that prevent large gatherings.

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Ben Felder

Based in Oklahoma City, Ben Felder joined The Frontier in 2019 and covers education and politics. He previously covered education and government as an investigative reporter at The Oklahoman before becoming the newspaper’s news director. Felder can be reached at ben@readfrontier.com. Follow him on Twitter @benfelder_okc
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