New Bill Aims To Cut Down On Virtual Learning Days For Oklahoma Students

Two lawmakers discuss a new bill that aims to cut down on virtual learning.

Wednesday, January 24th 2024, 5:24 pm



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Dozens of schools across the state switched to virtual learning this week and last, due to weather. But some lawmakers say we’ve become too dependent on remote learning.

Now, a bill has been filed to cut down on virtual school days, and set some guidelines for those days that have to be online.

Lawmakers say the goal of this bill is to get kids back in the classroom, hoping this will ultimately improve academic outcomes.

“There is no better place for a child to learn than face to face instruction with their teacher,” said Sen. Lonnie Paxton, ( R) Tuttle.

Getting back to the basics of education is becoming a common phrase at the capitol.

“Keeping our kids out of the classroom is not how we're going to increase our educational outcomes,” said Sen. Kristen Thompson (R-Edmond).

Now Senators Thompson and Paxton are hoping their new legislation will get back to the basics of in-person learning.

“In Oklahoma we require schools to be in session 165 days a year at a minimum, that is one of the lowest in the nation. When you substitute those 165 days with virtual days, our kids are being deprived of a proper education,” said Paxton.

After the pandemic, Zoom became a tool for teachers and parents in a pinch. But four years later, many worry that kids aren’t getting a sufficient education through a camera.

“Those kids need to be with their teachers, that's how they learn best,” said Thompson.

Thompson says remote learning has also become a burden for many teachers and parents 

“Being a mom, a working mom, those days for me are very, very challenging,” said Thompson.

“A lot of parents are telling us [and] a lot of firsthand experience from legislators is that there's not a whole lot of education going on those days,” said Paxton.

The senators are hoping this push will also help with interpersonal skills in Oklahoma students.

“This is a great way to address these issues in our kids, teach them how to interact with other humans,” said Thompson.

The legislation would require any virtual days to be for inclement weather, staff shortages caused by illness or building maintenance issues.

“We obviously do not want our teachers and our kids going to school when it's not safe,” said Thompson.

It would also require schools to give a 72-hour notice to the State Department of Education if they plan to go virtual.

“When you do have a virtual day there's gonna be requirements; for elementary age it's five and a half hours of education on the computer. If you're in high school it's six hours,” said Paxton.

Both senators say they heard feedback from parents across the state that some students were getting a single worksheet, or less than 30 minutes of work during the virtual days.

They say that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars to not have a full day of instruction, along with a disservice to growing children.

“We can't just not go to school, so if we do have to pivot we have those expectations,” Thompson said. “We're really encouraging that face-to-face through Zoom, even though that is not our preferred optimal method, there are still situations where we have to use those and we're okay with that. We just want to make sure those are reserved for very specific and minimal purposes,” said Thompson.

The bill will be presented when session starts on February 5th.

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