The Oklahoma state Board of Education voted against requiring the "Return to Learn Oklahoma" plan be enacted by districts, but instead voted to make it a suggestion.
The state school board approved a plan suggesting masks for most Oklahoma students and teachers based off the county where the district is located, a spokesperson told News 9.
Only six of Oklahoma’s 77 counties will have not have mask suggestions.
Of the 71 other counties, the plan begins suggesting masks for students Pre-K through 12th grade, allowing Pre-K to 3rd grade to take off masks in the classroom.
In counties with greater outbreaks including Oklahoma County, all students and teachers are suggested to wear masks all day.
Students will be allowed to remove their masks for meals, nap time and physical education.
The suggestion passed 4 to 3. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, board members Carlisha Bradley and Kurt Bollenback voted against the recommendation and said it should have been a requirement.
Hofmeister released a statement after the meeting and expressed disappointment.
“Today’s vote is very disappointing and one that likely will stoke more concerns for teachers, parents and families with a new school year only weeks away. We all realize how important it is for schools to reopen. But we are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19 cases sharply rising in our state. I believe it entirely appropriate that the State Board establish a floor of recommended and required protocols to ensure a safer environment for all in the school community – teachers, staff and students. Now that the board has made its decision, we strongly urge districts across the state to do the right thing and demonstrate the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ by masking up and following social distancing guidelines. In the meantime, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will continue working to secure the PPE our schools need.”
Oklahoma Education Association's President Alicia Priest released the following statement and said the state board failed to step up for Oklahoma's students:
"We appreciate State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister proposing a plan to make school safer for students and staff. Sadly, four state board members couldn’t find the courage to protect our communities.
"This is not a board standing up for local control. It is a governor-appointed board hiding behind those words to escape their responsibilities to the children of Oklahoma. If our elected leaders do not take their obligations to protect them seriously, our kids are the ones who will suffer — along with our colleagues, our families, and our fellow Oklahomans.
"Our districts need strong leadership, but they didn’t find it at the State Board meeting today."