Distance learning proposed for remainder of school year

Michael Smith

The Oklahoma State Board of Education is scheduled to vote today on a plan to keep classrooms closed for the rest of the school year. Oklahoma State Department of Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has proposed a distance learning plan to replace traditional classes and said a top priority will be seniors on track to graduate this year.

“Many districts across our state have utilized online instruction already and likely will be able to hit the ground running,” Hofmeister said in a Monday statement. “Other districts have significant technology limitations, while some might opt for instructional materials delivered to students.”

The meeting will address a number of closure-related waivers, including calendar, curriculum, and funding issues. Those waivers are being pursued to give districts “greater flexibility to respond to the needs of their students and communities,” according to the statement.

Federal education officials last week granted waivers to Oklahoma schools to suspend standardized testing and Oklahoma School Report Cards for the current school year.

If the board approves Hofmeister’s “Continuous Learning Plan” proposal, districts would be expected to provide distance education for the rest of the school year. Hofmeister said methods used by individual districts would vary based on the needs and resources of districts and communities.

Districts would also have to give the education department a distance learning plan and assurances of services for English learners and special education students.

State education officials are expected to provide resources to districts to develop programs, according to Monday’s statement. The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which distributes PBS across Oklahoma, is also being considered to partner with OSDE and provide instructional material to students using OETA broadcasts.

“I have faith in the commitment, innovation and creativity of Oklahoma educators and administrators,” Hofmeister said.

While Hofmeister will be in the Oklahoma City boardroom, the six-member board is scheduled to virtually attend the special-called meeting. Due to an executive order from Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday, only essential staff will be allowed to attend the meeting in person.

OSDE will provide live video of the 9:30 a.m. meeting on the department’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/OklaSDE.