Gov. Stitt announces plans to get PPE for Oklahoma educators

Coronavirus

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With many schools opening their doors in the next month, Oklahoma educators have been concerned about how they are going to obtain proper PPE. Gov. Kevin Stitt says that he has the answer.

“To make sure our students and teachers are protected as they return to in-person learning, I am proud to announce that we are committing $10 million from our CARES Act funding to supply Oklahoma schools with the PPE they need for in-person instruction,” Stitt said.

In his first in-person press conference since contracting COVID-19, Stitt announced Thursday afternoon the state will be allocating millions of dollars in funding to purchase PPE for Oklahoma educators. 

“Our kids have been playing youth sports, doing other activities throughout this entire summer. Online instruction does not reduce the chance of exposure outside the classroom,” Stitt said.

Based on requests from the State Department of Education, Stitt says the state will be providing 1.7 million reusable masks, 42,000 clear face shields, 1.2 million pairs of gloves and 1.2 million disposable gowns.

He also announced plans to have teachers tested.

“I’m signing an executive order today directing the state health department to work with the Department of Education to come up with a plan to test our teachers on a monthly basis,” Stitt said.

Stitt is telling Oklahomans that the virus is still prevalent in our state. During the news conference, he gave an answer as to why he, himself, wasn’t wearing a mask in a room full of reporters.

“Well, I’ve already had COVID,” Stitt said.

Stitt added that PPE will be distributed through the Department of Emergency Management and schools will pick it up from there.

But if there’s an outbreak in a classroom, at a school or even in a district, the state has no plan.

“I think we’re leaving it up to the districts individually,” Stitt said.

Stitt said more info on how schools will pick up PPE will come in the next few days. But the state wants it all distributed by Aug. 14.

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest provided the following response to Stitt’s plan to spend $10 million in CARES Act funds on PPE for schools:

“We’re grateful that the governor will provide schools with some personal protective equipment, something OEA recommended weeks ago. Districts have been scrambling to make these purchases for months, but we’ll take it.

However, districts, educators, and students have had an even more difficult time finding cleaning supplies — something the governor said he hasn’t even considered. That’s alarming.

This is what CARES Act money should be spent on — not vouchers.

We’re glad the governor has come to realize how important public schools are to our children and our communities. We’re teachers. We know the value of teaching in person. We know the kids whose only meal comes from their public school. We know the kids whose school is their safe space and are scared to go home.

If you care about education professionals who dedicate their lives to these essential services, please listen to them. Many teachers and staff face an impossible choice: Put themselves and their families at risk or leave the work they love.

We know the consequences of keeping schools closed. We’re the ones who have spent the past four and a half months working to mitigate those consequences. However, there are consequences to Governor Stitt’s delayed decisions and refusal to listen to the experts in health and in the classroom.

This is a good first step, but the clock is ticking.”

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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