OKLAHOMA CITY (July 30, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the State of Oklahoma is allocating $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to supply Oklahoma schools with PPE in order to open safely for in-person learning.
Joined by Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives Justin Brown and education stakeholders from across the state, Gov. Stitt stressed the importance of the health and safety of students and teachers while highlighting the need for schools to resume.
“Schools are an essential part of our society,” said Gov. Stitt. “It is critically important that they operate safely and effectively for all students. I am committed to providing our schools with the resources and support they need in order to welcome students back to the classroom while also prioritizing their health.”
Based on personnel data and requests from the State Department of Education, the State will be providing the following PPE to Oklahoma schools:
PPE will be distributed through the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to regional warehouses across the state for school districts to pick up— with a goal to deliver PPE by August 14.
In addition, the governor announced Third Amended Executive Order 2020-20, directing the State Health Department to partner with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to develop a plan by August 21 for teachers to be tested for COVID-19 monthly.
Gov. Stitt and Sec. Brown also discussed the consequences associated with closed schools.
“60 percent of Oklahoma students qualify for free and reduced breakfast and lunch, and many consume half of their daily calories at school. Our child nutrition workers have done a great job innovating providing meals while schools have been closed, but we know that is not a sustainable long-term strategy to serve all kids,” continued Gov. Stitt. “The lack of in-person instruction keeps students from accessing a variety of important mental health and social services, and it widens achievement gaps across income levels and races that existed before COVID-19. These disparities can worsen and cause serious, hard-to-repair damage to the education of our kids.”
“As important public health decisions are made, there are critical trade-offs that impact the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Sec. Brown. “In times of stress, we all expect that cases of child abuse and neglect to increase. The nation is struggling with the fact that actual reports of child abuse and neglect are down dramatically. Teachers play a critical role in recognizing abuse, and it is clear that our kids are not being seen by their teachers. In April of 2019, educators reported 767 cases of suspected abuse and neglect. In April of 2020, that number reduced to just 57 cases.”
To watch the full press conference, click here.
Additional quotes from today’s announcement:
“Our schools offer so much more than just curriculum instruction. They offer very essential services and are safe places where kids can feel loved, develop social and emotional skills, and be provided with nutritious meals that they might not get at home. Distance learning may be a perfectly acceptable option for some students, but is not an equitable solution for all. I am proud to stand with Governor Stitt as we work to protect our teachers and students who are coming back to the classroom.” – Oklahoma Representative Sherrie Conley
“On behalf of the teachers and students at Dover Public Schools in Kingfisher County, I would like to thank Governor Stitt, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the State of Oklahoma for providing us with PPE and testing so our teachers and students can feel protected as they return to the classroom. Having the option to return to school in-person is so important to us, because it allows us to give each of our students the education and support they deserve, regardless of their parents’ income, access to technology or family situation.” – Max Thomas, Superintendent of Dover Public Schools
“Crossover is a Christian, all-male college prep school that offers a different approach to learning for boys in North Tulsa. Some of our students come to us without many positive male role models in their life. They build strong relationships with their teachers and forge important bonds that are much more difficult to maintain in a virtual setting. I want to thank Governor Stitt for providing solutions to allow our school to operate safely in-person and allow us to do our part in continuing to fight the achievement gaps that we know exist in our education system.” – Philip Abode, Executive Director of Crossover Preparatory Academy