Education

Oklahoma board of education closes public schools until April 6

OKLAHOMA CITY — Due to concerns over COVID-19, the Oklahoma board of education has ordered the mandatory closure of all accredited public schools in the state until April 6.

In an emergency meeting on March 16, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the move was out of an abundance of caution to protect families from the rapidly spreading virus.

"This is not a simple decision that we are bringing this recommendation to you today, and it will be challenging for many families," she said. "Nothing takes precedence over the health and well-being of our people. Nothing."

The decision to suspend instruction applies to all traditional public school districts, as well as brick and mortar and virtual charter schools. While classes are suspended, all school-sponsored extracurricular activities for students, grading, professional development sessions and other programs will all grind to a halt. Essential administrative duties and maintenance will be allowed to continue.

The state has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide free meals in a non-group setting to public school students eligible for free and reduced priced meals while districts are closed. An additional waiver application is still pending to expand the meal service to cover more students under the emergency school closure provisions of both the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option and the Summer Food Service Program.

Hofmeister also said the state would seek out any applicable testing waivers, particularly should the closure period be extended.

“We are not going to ask children to come in and be assessed under these circumstances,” she said.

Although the state board of education’s decision does not extend to the Osage Nation’s immersion school, Daposka Ahnkodapi followed suit and will remain closed until April 6. The language nests in Pawhuska, Fairfax, Hominy and Skiatook will also be closed until April 6.