Debate continues over Stillwater Public Schools learning plan

Classrooms & COVID-19

STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – The debate continues in Stillwater as some parents voiced their concerns about the current virtual learning plan that is in place for Stillwater Public Schools.

Last month, Stillwater Public Schools sent an email to parents, saying all students would be switching to online learning after an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Payne County.

The district said it was moving from the yellow zone to the orange zone, following the state’s guidelines. As a result, the district closed its traditional classrooms. 

Although school officials said the move was to protect students, some students and parents are now asking the Stillwater School Board to reinstate in-person learning.

On Tuesday, the Stillwater Public School Board held a virtual meeting where parents voiced their opinions on the current situation.

“Online schooling is just really difficult; I feel like I’m not learning anything,” said Morgan Ramsey, a senior at Stillwater High School. 

“Because schools are such a high-risk environment, we could only open them when the spread of coronavirus in the community is low and controlled,” said Thad Leffingwell, during the virtual meeting. 

Parents and other citizens stood along Main Street next to the administration building with signs in protest of the online only plan. The debate also raged on during the public comments portion of the meeting. 

“I just feel like our children are really getting the short end of the stick here,” said Elizabeth Hurlbutt, a Stillwater resident. 

“Not to return to in-person instruction until we are at low levels of community spread,” said Zackary Reed, a Stillwater resident during the virtual meeting. 

The school district moved to virtual learning just days into the school year as the community spread of COVID-19 increased in Payne County.

District leaders looked to Oklahoma’s COVID-19 Alert Map for guidance regarding the coronavirus situation in the area.

“We used the best data we had at the time to, to make the decision,” said Camille Deyong, a Stillwater school board member. 

“If our city of Stillwater can be open and we are following the safety guidelines here, then why isn’t the school following the same thing,” said Amber Gray, the protest organizer a day before the protest. 

Stillwater has nearly 1,300 COVID-19 cases with three deaths. The rest of Payne County has about 200 cases and two deaths. 

“Is there any concerns as a parent that even if the child is low risk, that they may bring home the virus at any point in time or anything like that?” KFOR asked Hurlbutt. 

“That is a risk I believe we are all willing to take,” said Hurlbutt. 

The school board said while these decisions are tough to make, they are listening to the voices of the protestors. 

“Parents have every right to speak up for their children and it’s important for us to be listening,” Deyong said. 

No decisions on virtual or in-school learning were made Tuesday. The board said discussions will continue. 

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