As we head into Thanksgiving week, make sure you’re caught up on all the education news around Oklahoma to share with your family around the dinner table — or over Zoom. I hear people just love talking about the news over dinner, right?
This year, I am personally thankful for our readers and the reporters around the state working hard to bring you the education news that I get to compile into this weekly #coveducation recap.
House Democrats call on two SVCSB members to step down.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus education policy group released a statement this week asking two members of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to step down owing to alleged conflicts of interest with Epic Charter Schools.
SVCSB member Phyllis Shepherd is being asked to step down after it was discovered through social media posts that she is the aunt of Epic co-founder David Chaney. The Tulsa World looked into genealogy records showing that Chaney and Shepherd are related on Chaney’s fathers side of the family.
Mathew Hamrick is being asked to step down owing to the nature of his relationship with Chaney, as well. According to the Epic audit, in 2017 Hamrick received political contributions from Chaney for his Senate District 45 Senate campaign. These contributions made up 55 percent of the total funds received by Hamrick’s campaign.
The joint statement came in response to the SVCSB’s canceling of a previously scheduled meeting that was supposed to take place this week, as well as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointment of a successor for SVCSB President John Harrington after the meeting was announced.
Stitt’s deputy general counsel, Jeffrey Cartmell, took issue with the House Democrats’ press release on Twitter.
The two members you’re calling on to resign weren’t appointed by and can’t be removed by the Gov.
Surprising one of the lawyers in your caucus didn’t realize this. https://t.co/NrMXR1iils
— Jeffrey Cartmell (@Jeffrey_OKC) November 18, 2020
Edmond Schools to resume in-person classes Nov. 30
As many school districts across the metro have switched to virtual learning after an increase in COVID-19 cases, Edmond Public Schools plans to move forward with bringing students back to the classroom on an A/B schedule after Thanksgiving.
KFOR reported this week that an email from Edmond Superintendent Bret Towne to parents said a week of remote learning followed by a week off for Thanksgiving means most of the individuals in the district who have been affected by COVID will be cleared from isolation or quarantine and able to safely return to school.
Students on the A schedule will return to the classroom on Monday, Nov. 30.
Officials say it’s important for students to stay current on their lessons and not fall behind. Parents should not send their children to school if they are showing any signs of COVID-19.
OKCPS exploring options to continue extracurriculars
As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, Oklahoma City Public Schools has committed to remaining in remote learning until January.
Oklahoma County remains in the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s “red alert” level this week, with 73.1 COVID cases per 100,000 people reported.
However, a letter to parents from OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel on Friday said the district is exploring options to allow fine arts, athletics and other extracurricular activities to resume in a safe and healthy manner.
The letter said OKCPS is also following requests from Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt to take a break from higher-risk activities for the next 10 days. This includes transitioning the majority of OKCPS staff to telework through Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Survey shows districts are grateful to be open
The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported this week that three months into the school year, Oklahoma school districts say they’re encouraged in-person education has lasted this long, but many fear COVID-19 could force shutdowns again.
Last week, a survey was given to school board members and administrators from about 300 school districts by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. The survey showed that an overwhelming majority were pleased schools have maintained in-person class.
OSSBA’s survey results can be found here.
State superintendent in favor of statewide school mask mandate
StateImpact Oklahoma’s Robby Korth reported this week that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister believes mandating masks in classrooms is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
A State Department of Education survey found that roughly half of the school districts in the state require masks in classrooms. During a State Board of Education meeting last week, members voted to continue recommending masks in Oklahoma schools, but not require them.
StateImpact Oklahoma is also continuing to track the number of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma schools. There are hundreds of cases that have been discovered in more than 300 public school districts, as well as charter and private schools.
I've entered the phrase "close contacts were notified and asked to quarantine" into the COVID in schools database hundreds of times. Each time it represents a terrifying day for a kid and their family. The horror of this virus is awful. https://t.co/NL8gDbzhAX
— Robby Korth (@RobbyKorth) November 18, 2020
School closure protest planned for Monday at Capitol
Some parents of public school students are planning to gather at the State Capitol at 11 a.m. Monday to protest school closures.
According to a press release from ChoiceMatters, a parent organization established to educate parents on education choices available in Oklahoma, the group will gather to demand a greater voice and role in education, especially as it relates to decisions involving school closures and virtual learning.
Parents will also attempt to meet with legislators as well as representatives from the governor’s office.
Project AWARE helps meet student mental health needs
When Atoka Public Schools Superintendent Jay McAdams thinks about the importance of mental health resources in schools, he remembers a story from a man he knows.
“He lost his mom when he was 9 years old,” McAdams said. “We talked about how when trauma occurs to kids, the brain develops differently and how some people are able to overcome it and some people aren’t.”
For that man, starting to overcome the trauma of losing his mother in a tragic accident came a decade later, when an older woman at the post office offered a signal of caring just by asking how he was and offering words of encouragement. But what if the man had been able to find the support he needed sooner?
An article published by NonDoc this week looks at the Project AWARE program and how it’s providing trauma-informed training for teachers, licensed counselors for each school district and the development of a community-based approach to mental health in Oklahoma schools.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
— Oklahoma House Democrats (@OklaHouseDems) November 18, 2020
At end of summer, COVID cases among kids were low w/ 23 cases on Aug. 24. However, cases for this age group reached an all-time high Nov. 7 when OK recorded 608 children infected w/ COVID-19.
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) November 19, 2020
We’ve expanded the eligibility for the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet grant program.
This will get money to families who were previously denied so their kids can have the school resources they need.
New applications are also still being accepted!
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 13, 2020
🆕We've updated the weekly #COVID19 alert map using @HealthyOklahoma data & aligned to @oksde safety protocols.
🔴 — 6⃣4⃣
🟠2⃣ — 1⃣1⃣
🟡 — 0⃣
🟢 — 0⃣
See the full details ⤵️
🔗https://t.co/alH7QFkzaa#oklaed 😷 pic.twitter.com/qbTVE6ZlBJ
— OSSBA (@OSSBAoklahoma) November 20, 2020