Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said the past year has been rocky. The reality was that they were trying to navigate a pandemic in real time and make the best decisions for the schools, kids and staff as possible.
“We knew this was serious and that we had to put the safety and wellbeing of our children and all those who serve in schools first,” said Hofmeister.
Hofmeister said she remembered vividly when she called an emergency state board of education meeting on March 16, 2020. During that meeting the decision was made to close schools starting on March 17, 2020 until at least April 6, 2020. When that time rolled around the decision was made to finish the year virtually.
“Our school leaders, our teachers, they moved heaven and earth to meet their kids where they were,” said Hofmeister.
Hofmeister said there was a sense of optimism that came about heading into the summer.
That was the time Oklahoma was beginning to reopen. But she said that optimism went away when cases started to spike. At that time, as schools prepared for the unknown, they were left making tough decisions to best fit their needs.
Schools all moved forward into a new year very differently. Some decided to stay virtual, some opened on an A/B schedule and then there were some who were able to go back in-person five days a week.
“No one has been through this pandemic and there is a lot to learn looking backwards,” said Hofmeister.
One specific lesson Hofmeister told News 9 she learned was that leaders need to work together and lean on science to make the best decision possible. She said that is how they will be doing things moving forward.
“If we keep our foot on the gas and do what we know is working,” said Hofmeister. “I think we will be able to focus on getting back and having a very different year.”
She said in the coming year it is undeniable that there will be learning loss, but she has remained hopeful that they will be able to get kids back to where they were before the pandemic.
“Our kids have been through a lot,” said Hofmeister. “And we can’t just focus on tackling academic we need to think about the whole child.”
Vaccinations have been a game changer for schools across the state. Hofmeister said with the ability to get teachers the vaccine that is the protection many of them have been waiting for to give them that extra layer of protection in the classroom.
Hofmeister also said that statewide they will be able to see where students are academically when they all take their spring assessments.