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Governor Stitt says students need to return to school; Public health officials and Oklahoma educators disagree

by Erika Stone, Senior Staff Writer

 

Reading Time 1 min 22 secs

Kevin Stitt has always had one goal as Governor: for Oklahoma to rank as a Top Ten state. And when it comes to Covid19, Oklahoma is already there: in test positivity per capita; in hospitalizations; and in new cases per capita.

Yet, amid the worst global pandemic in more than 100 years, Governor Stitt is pushing for public schools in Oklahoma to re-open. “We need to put our students first, and we need to get them back in class,” said Gov. Stitt. “Refusing to offer in-person school is jeopardizing our kids’ education; it’s jeopardizing teachers’ careers; and, it’s jeopardizing the future of the State of Oklahoma.”

Governor Stitt seemed less concerned about jeopardizing the lives of the over 375,000 Oklahomans who have contracted the virus, much less the 3500 who have died since March 2020.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt

Despite Governor Stitt’s agenda, several public schools in Oklahoma have returned to distance learning following Covid19 outbreaks, including Catoosa, Union, and Broken Arrow the latter of which does not have a city-wide mask mandate. At the last Broken Arrow city council meeting, discussion of a mask mandate ended in a shouting match between citizens and city councilors — while the final vote was 4-1 against a mask mandate within city limits.

Meanwhile, in Governor Stitt’s haste to re-open schools, he has even taken the drastic step of announcing he will change quarantine rules for schools that enforce mask mandates. Yet Governor Stitt, who was the first Governor in the nation to contract Covid, still refuses to endorse a mask mandate, insisting that wearing a mask is a personal choice.

Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Education

Oklahoma public educators are pushing back against the suggestion to ignore CDC recommendations to re-open Oklahoma schools. In a written response to Governor Stitt’s comments, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister stated, “While this option underscores the need for mask requirements in school, I cannot in good conscience support ignoring quarantine guidelines from the CDC and other infectious disease experts. There is no doubt we all want our students and teachers to be safely in the classroom, but COVID is raging in Oklahoma.”

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