The Oklahoma Education Association addressed the pandemic and return to school Thursday.
“It’s time to make hard decisions again. If Oklahomans want school to start, Oklahoma leaders need to make those hard decisions now. We cannot ignore this pandemic. We cannot turn a blind eye,” OEA President Alicia Priest said.
Priest was joined by other local leaders and speakers in a Zoom call, where she released demands to state officials.
The OEA and its members are demanding a mask mandate for everyone inside the school buildings.
Educators also asked for PPE to be provided, including soap and cleaning supplies.
Priest also said she wants a concrete plan for the worst cases scenarios.
“The state must mandate protocols on when to shut down a school and when to shut down a district. The state must address the sheer number of students in one building, one bus, one cafeteria at a time,” Priest said.
Governor Kevin Stitt’s office deferred comment on the demands to State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Hofmeister sent the following statement to News 9:
“The safety and well-being of every student, teacher and staff in public schools weighs heavily on our hearts and minds as we have been consumed with detailed planning for the next school year. Only a few weeks ago, Oklahoma school districts received $145 million in federal relief funds for the express use of responding to the pandemic. The Oklahoma State Department of Education is actively working to secure additional relief funds for PPE and other critical needs – and there is reason for optimism that another federal relief package for schools will be forthcoming – but the situation remains fluid.
“COVID-19 cases are rising and the OSDE is in close communication with the state Department of Health and other trusted public health experts to find the most appropriate course of action, but the fact is community transmission of the virus varies widely throughout Oklahoma. Districts can and should act on the situation in their respective areas with consultation from local and state health officials — and we have been deeply involved in the work of developing a multitiered safety protocol response that corresponds with the path of the virus."