OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, the chair of the House Common Education Committee, on Wednesday held an interim study examining Oklahoma schools’ versus other regional states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oklahoma students and those around the nation have suffered during this current pandemic,” Baker said. “In many instances, they’ve had to adapt to virtual education or to blended-learning models, and they’ve lost learning time in vital subject areas, putting them at risk of not being prepared for their next grade or even graduation. Even upon being able to return to their classrooms this fall, many are facing changes to the classroom structure and different standards for participating in extracurricular activities. The point of the study was to look at our response as a state. Additionally, we looked into some of the practices being implemented in surrounding states. It is important to learn what we are doing well and where we can make improvements in our educational performance so our students can continue to excel as we prepare them for graduation and the future work force.”
Oklahoma school districts were forced to close in March in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students moved to virtual instruction, while many markers of student success were suspended for the year, including testing and the statewide Schools’ A-F Report Card.
School districts were allowed to reopen in August for the current school year, with each district deciding its own method of instruction. Many districts are offering virtual or blended-learning models as well as in-person classes, and many have varying policies on mask wearing, social distancing, frequent handwashing, facility cleaning and other health and safety measures to keep students and educators safe.
Baker said schools are continuing to face challenges as cases of COVID continue to surface throughout many areas of the state.
“Our educators are becoming innovative in their delivery so they can accelerate each student’s progress, which is a state and regional goal,” she said. “I especially want to express my appreciations to the superintendents that spoke during today’s study giving all educators ideas for student success during this unprecedented time.”
Supt. Chuck McCauley of Bartlesville Public Schools discussed the importance of becoming competitive in the educational field so students will want to stay in their home districts when they have other learning options with which to choose. Supt. Geri Gilstrap of Stilwell Public Schools spoke about “boot camps” the district offers to parents and grandparents who are partnering with their child virtually to learn the basics of technology. This allows them to help the child be more engaged and successful. Both presenters discussed the strong desire by most students to attend school in person.
Additional presenters at the study included:
- Stephen Pruitt from the Southern Regional Education Board who gave an overview of the regional response to reopening education after COVID;
- Carolyn Thompson, deputy chief of staff and chief of government affairs with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) spoke about Oklahoma’s educational response to COVID;
- Tiffany Neal, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction with OSDE spoke about remediation;
- Dr, Pam Deering executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators spoke about superintendents concerns and responses to the health crisis; and
Rhonda Baker serves District 60 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Caddo and Canadian counties.