School Buildings Remain Closed
State Board of Education approves distance learning to close out 2019-2020 school year
March 26, 2020
Oklahoma public schools will not be reconvening in person for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, the State Board of Education ruled in a
special meeting Wednesday, March 25.
Instead, they will resume after April 6 with distance learning as part of State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Continuous Learning Plan “to complete the school year for Oklahoma students without reopening school buildings during the global (COVID-19) pandemic,” according to a statement from the Department of Education.
Hofmeister said the distance learning will vary based on a school district’s specific capacity and needs. Districts will create their own distance learning plans.
“My heart breaks at the thought of a future of online education,” Blake Moody, North Rock Creek Superintendent, said. “Nothing replaces face to face interaction with highly qualified, caring teachers that we have in Pottawatomie County.”
Asher Public Schools Superintendent Terry Grissom said APS is already developing a plan “to ensure our students will continue to have opportunities to learn and to grow academically, especially with parental support.
“This is a significant transition for our students and our teachers,” Grissom said. “Asher Public Schools will spend the next two weeks planning for this effort.”
Lack of internet or distance learning platforms will likely present some challenges for districts, but South Rock Creek Superintendent Mike
Crawford said Oklahoma teachers will still provide opportunities for their students.
“It will be a struggle to keep up with each student’s individual needs away from the classroom,” Crawford said.
“Oklahoma teachers will do what they always do, find a way to bring success to their students.”
Some county schools, like Earlsboro and Wanette, sent out surveys to their students’ families to determine the amount of internet connectivity they have.
“We are attempting to see how we can better serve our parents and students,” Wanette Superintendent Sylvia McNeely said. “We are very much aware that many of our students do not have internet access and the hot spots that many use have been known to be unreliable. Based on the gathered data, our leadership team will come together and develop a plan in order to meet our students’ academic needs.”
Tecumseh Superintendent Tom Wilsie said while it is surprising, he thinks this move is needed based on events occurring around the country and world, but he’s confident in the teachers from his district.
“I have to say that with any announcement of this magnitude, there is a bit of surprise. However, it is a move that is not unexpected. Just monitoring the events across our country and in our state make you aware that there will have to be significant changes in our daily lives in order to do our part to control the spread of the COVID-19,” Wilsie said. “We have begun our planning for how we can best meet our student needs in a positive and productive way. I have every confidence in our teachers and administrators that our efforts will meet these challenges.”
Bethel Public Schools Superintendent Tod Harrison provided this statement to the Countywide and Sun Tuesday before the state board voted:
“I believe these unfortunate and unprecedented times warrant more patience than we sometimes want to give. The health and wellbeing of our Bethel students and staff are the top priority. The agenda items on the state board of education special meeting would indicate an extension of our break through the end of this school year if approved. The distance learning reference has yet to be completely laid out for schools. We are expecting that framework after the state board meeting.
“My understanding is that this plan will be left to each individual district as a guide to finishing this school year. It is important to do what is right by each student we have. That process will look different from one school district to another. The most important part in my opinion will be to communicate with parents, students and staff that we will get through this. Undue stress and worry about things that are beyond our control is not necessary.
“After the announcement is official, Bethel will work on our district plan to finish this school year. The number of days until April 6 is short and full implementation of our plan may not be viable on that date. There are many concerns about perceived instructional delivery as it pertains to distance learning. One way or another we will strive to create a plan that is low stress, teacher driven and understanding of each
individual student’s situation.”