Schools cancel for Coronavirus; Meals for Students still on
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously in an emergency meeting Monday to close all public schools in Oklahoma until at least April 6 in response to the coronavirus, which has started to spread throughout the Sooner State.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister called the meeting early Monday after the state’s tenth case of the coronavirus was confirmed.
“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of Oklahomans,” Hofmeister said in a statement. “It is critical that we do everything in our power to protect the health of our kids, their families, educators and all vulnerable populations. That need outweighs everything else. The [Oklahoma State Department of Education] has been working around the clock, and will continue to do so, to ease the burden of schools during this challenging time.”
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt supports the closure order.
“This decision is not made lightly, but it is the right thing to do based on current guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control],” Stitt said in a statement. “This closure will allow us time to further understand how COVID-19 is affecting Oklahoma and give students and staff a period of time to be protected from further community spread of the virus. We know closing schools has a significant impact on families, and we are committed to doing what we can to lessen that impact as we work to prioritize the health and safety of all Oklahomans.”
For high school seniors, the cessation of schools poses a question: Will students be able to graduate?
Blackwell Public Schools Interim Superintendent Rod Reese said it’s too early to tell how the prolonged school closure will affect graduation. But he doesn’t think it will impact seniors who are going to college in the fall.
He said he is not sure how state and federal end-of-year tests will be administered. The details, he said, have yet to be worked out.
“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “This has never happened before in the history of the state.”
MEALS FOR STUDENTS
Blackwell Public Schools will continue to serve meals to students while schools are closed.
The State Department of Education has received two waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow all state schools to continue serving meals.
The waivers will allow for “grab-and-go” meals for students, a practice that limits interaction between students and school employees, according to a news release from the state department.
The waivers are valid through June 30 or until the federally declared public health emergency expires, department officials said in the news release.
Blackwell High School Principal Shawn Haskins, who oversees the district’s food services, said the district will distribute grab-and-go meals at Blackwell Middle School.
Grab-and-go lunches will be available at the school from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays. Students are not allowed to enter the school, so the meals will be distributed in the parking lot. Parents may drive their students to the school, and students may walk there to pick up meals. The meals will come in paper sacks.
Students will receive two meals when they arrive: lunch for the current day, and breakfast for the next day.
Meal costs will be the same that they are while school is in session, Haskins said. That means students who receive free lunches will continue to receive them for free.
For more information on school meal services, contact the state department’s Child Nutrition Programs Office at 405-521-3327.
Universities across Oklahoma have closed their campuses in response to the coronavirus, but classes will continue online at most institutions.
The University of Oklahoma’s campus in Norman is closed from March 16 to March 20. All in-person university classes will be transitioned to online classes from March 23 to April 3. One OU student has tested positive for the virus.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University will also transition all in-person classes to online classes from March 23 to April 3. This applies to the university’s locations in Alva and Enid. All school events through April 3 are either cancelled or postponed.
Northern Oklahoma College followed suit at its campuses in Tonkawa and Enid. Oklahoma State University in Stillwater has also switched to online-only classes and cancelled events through April 3.
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