On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a new policy regarding school quarantine and advocated for districts to offer in-person learning in the spring.
“Let me be clear, the data continues to show in-person learning is safe,” Stitt said after citing a study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study focused on in-person classes at schools in North Carolina.
Kari Webber, the Vice President of the Oklahoma Chapter of the AAP said Stitt’s description of the study was a “misinterpretation.”
“It’s important to note that (the classrooms involved in the study) were in communities that were proactive and put strong mitigation efforts in place,” Webber said. “That’s not the case in Oklahoma. We don’t have the mask mandates. We don’t have lower amounts of people in restaurants and bars.”
The author of the study, Dr. Daniel Kelly Benjamin said mitigation measures like face coverings and social distancing, both of which were required in the schools involved in the study, are crucial.
If a school district does not do these things, they will likely make the pandemic worse by being open,” Benjamin said. “This is why we don’t advise ‘you should open’ or ‘you should go remote,’ because it’s all about the public health measures.”
Oklahoma does not have a statewide mask mandate in public or in schools. Stitt announced a new policy on Tuesday that would allow schools to forgo student quarantines in certain situations.
State Education Secretary Ryan Walters, a Stitt appointee who supports every district offering in-person classes, said the new policy is data-driven.
“This shouldn’t be political – we need to put our students first and allow them the choice to come back to their classrooms,” Walters said.