State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister released a statement today aimed at corralling Oklahoma school districts who have not been adhering to mandated guidelines and procedures for buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 25, the State Board of Education voted to approve Hofmeister’s proposal that, beginning April 6, “districts will be expected to provide distance learning for the remainder of the school year.”
During this time when administrators and educators are currently navigating that difficult and new transition, Hofmeister felt it was necessary to reiterate school safety precautions, like the ones detailed here.
“While the vast majority of school districts are acting responsibly,” Hofmeister wrote in a statement Tuesday, “the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) continues to receive troubling reports of administrators requiring large numbers of staff to report to school buildings for various tasks.”
If you have similar questions, please use the OEA FAQ page regarding changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite efforts from OEA, OSDE, and others to inform districts on these new guidelines, it appears Hofmeister felt the need to say it again.
“Let me be direct,” the next part Hofmeister put in bold, “Do not direct staff to a school building unless they are performing an essential function.”
While distance-learning facilitation has been declared essential under the March 25 order by the board, in conjunction with essential, clerical, child nutrition, and administrative services, the state superintendent wanted to ensure that this was not a loophole to be abused.
“I implore district leaders to be very conservative about what duties are defined as essential. Please bear in mind that coronavirus is extremely contagious and poses a lethal threat to a significant portion of the population.”
When some occasional distance learning work in school buildings is “truly unavoidable,” then districts must follow CDC guidelines.
Here are key safety practices according to the CDC:
- Limit any gathering to no more than 10 individuals
- Maintain at least six feet of distance between individuals at all times
- Adhere to sneeze and cough etiquette
- Wash hands vigorously and routinely, particularly before and after entering buildings, when handling items or in public areas
Some other cautionary guidelines related to schoolwork include:
- Allow entry to the building on an appointment-only basis
- Take the temperature of anyone planning to enter the building to ensure that no one with fever is given access
- Wear disposable gloves when handling items if possible
- Deliver items (laptops, tablets, critical personal items, etc.) to families curbside or outside the building
If you are an OEA member and have questions on how your district is following these guidelines, do not hesitate to reach out to your regional advocate.