State Superintendent Pushes For Local Districts To Have More Control In COVID-19 Policies

Tuesday, August 10th 2021, 6:13 pm


State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she wants local school districts to have control over whether students and staff must wear a mask.

A state law prevents local districts from mandating masks unless the governor issues a state of emergency.

More than a year and a half in to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hofmeister said the start of a new school year has some people nervous.

"It feels in some ways like a repeat from last year, with some high anxiety," said Hofmeister.

Hofmeister was joined by healthcare professionals Tuesday afternoon as part of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition's weekly report, which provides updates on the pandemic in Oklahoma. The big topic Tuesday: kids heading back to the classroom.

"This week the majority of 1,800 Oklahoma public schools are reopening their doors to almost 700,000 students and 80,000 teachers and school staff," said Hofmeister.

Hofmeister said the Delta variant has many districts concerned, since their goal is to prevent outbreaks and keep kids in the classroom. But she said many districts are facing a challenge with Senate Bill 658, which prevents districts from mandating masks unless the Governor issues a state of emergency.

Hofmeister said the law is taking local control away from districts to make decisions for their own community.

"We have a legislature that made a decision in May when things were very different,” said Hofmeister. “I pray that we do not come to some kind of collision of politics and science."

In the meantime, she along with doctors on Tuesday’s call, are all encouraging masks for everyone in school.

"One of my primary concerns about young children, younger people getting infected,” said Bratzler. “If they interact with those folks, they can spread it."


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