(Update: This article was updated at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 25, to reflect a correction issued by OKCPS communications staff regarding a statement the district previously made about vaccine distribution for district staff.)
The State Board of Education is slated to hold its first meeting of 2021 at 10 a.m. Thursday with the Epic Charter Schools Board of Education scheduled to meet Monday evening.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, this week Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed former businessman and University of Oklahoma football player Trent Smith to the Board of Education and continued his push for open schools.
Catch up on the week’s Oklahoma education news with this collection of headlines from reporters around the state.
Stitt appoints new State Board of Education member
On Friday, Gov. Kevin Stitt named former Oklahoma Employment Security Commission commissioner and former University of Oklahoma football player Trent Smith as his appointment to fill the vacant seat on the State Board of Education.
NonDoc reported that Smith will fill the seat for Congressional District 3, which was left vacant after Stitt removed Kurt Bollenbach from the board in December.
Smith said he is familiar with and supportive of Stitt’s goals for public education in the state, including Stitt’s statements that all students need to have an option for in-person instruction this year despite the pandemic.
Stitt pushes to open schools amid worsening pandemic
Gov. Kevin Stitt has made calls for Oklahoma schools to bring students back to the classroom, insisting that it’s safe to do so.
However, Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer reported that if Oklahoma was following its own school COVID-19 safety protocols created this summer, no schools would be meeting in person right now based on the latest data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
There’s also the issue of vaccinations still being unavailable to many of the state’s teachers and staff.
— Oklahoma Watch (@OklahomaWatch) January 20, 2021
Four Broken Arrow schools move to distance learning
Broken Arrow Public Schools moved four of the district’s school sites to distance learning on Friday owing to rising cases of COVID-19.
The Tulsa World’s Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton reported that Broken Arrow High School, Broken Arrow Freshman Academy, Centennial Middle School and Liberty Middle School will remain in distance learning until an estimated Feb. 2.
According to numbers released by the district, 1,565 students are in quarantine owing to exposure to the virus, which represents about 8 percent of all students enrolled for in-person instruction. About 196 students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
OKCPS middle and high schoolers to return to campus Feb. 2
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel announced Friday that the target date of Feb. 2 to reopen middle and high schools is now official.
The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported that fifth through 12th grade students will return to the classroom on Feb. 1 on an A/B schedule. Pre-K through fourth grades along with special and alternative education students returned to in-person classes this week on an A/B schedule.
Vaccinations for OKCPS staff could begin in February
The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported that the COVID-19 vaccine could become available to Oklahoma City Public Schools district staff on Feb. 12.
OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel announced this week that the district will partner with a third-party provider, Passport Health, to offer the free vaccines to employees through a tiered approach. McDaniel said the availability will be “intermittent and very limited.” The distribution order will be based on the Return to Campus schedule and the amount of daily student interaction of staff positions.
It was initially announced that the vaccine would be made available to OKCPS staff through a private source and not the state-allocated vaccine supply. However, a statement from OKCPS over the weekend said the vaccines will be allocated to Passport Health from the state’s supply when the broader vaccination phase for teachers and staff begins.
Duncan Public Schools following new state quarantine policy
Duncan Public Schools Superintendent Tom Dieghan announced this week that the district will begin following the new school quarantine policies announced by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week.
The policy allows students who have been exposed to COVID-19, but have not tested positive for the virus, to attend school without quarantining as long as the school district has a mask policy and other mitigation efforts in place.
The Duncan Banner’s Tamara Gregor reported that district staff and students will still have the option to quarantine without any impact to absences, grades, sick leave or pay.
The new quarantine guidelines from @HealthyOklahoma are designed to keep our kids in school and do it safely.
Thank you, Duncan Superintendent Dr. Deighan, for putting students first and using these new guidelines.https://t.co/Vr68aazowh
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) January 20, 2021
Cheat sheet: 35-year teacher, parents vie for Putnam City School Board Office 3
Three candidates will appear on the primary ballot for Office No. 3 of the Putnam City Schools Board of Education: incumbent board member Sky Collins, former educator Judy Mullen Hopper and attorney and former Warr Acres City Councilman Phillip Owens II.
The primary election will take place Tuesday, Feb. 9, with a general election set for April 6 if no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the Feb. 9 vote. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the primary election is Feb 2.
Learn about the candidates before you head to the polls with NonDoc’s candidate profiles.
Hiland milk recall affects Oklahoma schools
A recall on one-half pint 1 percent low fat chocolate milk was issued by Hiland Dairy, located in Norman, last week.
News 9’s Hunter McKee reported Monday that more than a dozen school districts said they received the milk including Piedmont, Putnam City, Deer Creek, Moore and Edmond Public Schools.
The recall occurred after the dairy company discovered a food contact surface sanitizing product, Synergex, inside the cartons.
— Angelica Brown (@AngelicaB2290) January 18, 2021
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
SB0803, by Sen. Shane Jett, would prohibit #oklaed public school districts and public charter schools from teaching, instructing or training any student to believe in "divisive concepts." Below are some of the topics the bill defines as "divisive concepts." #okleg pic.twitter.com/oFHNiFTkko
— Tyler Talley (@tylertalley22) January 22, 2021
Broken Arrow schools says the district is in desperate need of funding to avoid layoffs in 21-22 after a $7.4 m cut in state funding at midyear. @GovStitt recently held up @BASchools as an example for keeping its schools open during covid. https://t.co/FSi3R3UUfb
— Jennifer Palmer (@jpalmerOKC) January 21, 2021
Our 3rd grade is tuned in to the #Inauguration2021! Thank you, @DrBiden for making this day accessible to kids across America. With an interpreter too! And we saw Oklahoman @ItsDarciLynne! @VPSINDIANS #oklaed pic.twitter.com/SOva5F7f4z
— Kas Nelson (@KasNelson) January 20, 2021
I have been thrilled to witness the success of @LearnAnywhereOK in bridging the gap in education resources and courses no matter where a student lives or chooses to attend school in our state. #oklaedhttps://t.co/19eLLcbE2Z
— Secretary Ryan Walters (@sec_walters) January 21, 2021