Oklahoma City School Board Chair calls on families to vaccinate, wear masks to help ensure in-person classes

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(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Chairwoman of the Oklahoma City School Board is urging families to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear face masks to protect their children and help ensure in-person learning.

Board Chairwoman Paula Lewis issued a statement through Oklahoma City Public Schools on Friday.

Lewis said OKCPS officials are happy to provide in-person learning five days a week when the school year begins on Monday, Aug. 9.

However, Lewis said families need to take precautions against COVID-19 to help sustain in-person classes. She said families can do so by getting vaccinated, wearing face masks and practicing good hygiene.

“Science tells us that the two most important mitigation strategies in the school setting are the appropriate wearing of masks and vaccinations,” Lewis said. “We highly encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to do so as soon as possible. Because our youngest learners can not yet be vaccinated, we are asking our families and staff to consider wearing a mask to help protect them.”

Photo goes with story
Gov. Kevin Stitt

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 658 in May, preventing school districts from requiring masks and vaccines.

“We’re not going to mandate that someone else has to send their 4-year-old to school with a mask or get vaccinated,” Stitt said last week in defense of the bill.

Lewis criticized Stitt and the state legislature for taking the power to enforce COVID precautions away from schools.

“Unfortunately, the Governor and State Legislature have taken decision-making authority regarding these two measures out of the control of school districts and their boards,” Lewis said.

COVID-19 is surging in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 1,777 new COVID cases in the state and 11,532 active cases on Friday. The state has had 480,635 confirmed COVID cases and 8,731 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Hidalgo County, Texas, is reporting an uptick over over 670 new coronavirus cases on Monday. (AP File Photo)
(AP File Photo)

Oklahoma City schools do have measures in place to help protect students from COVID, according to Lewis.

“Despite this, OKCPS’ safety plan utilizes layers of mitigation, including cleaning, physical distancing, air ionization systems, contact tracing, robust testing and vaccination plans, as well as a focus on good hygiene practices, so that we can provide the safest possible environment for our students and staff,” Lewis said.

But Lewis and her fellow school officials strongly recommend that face masks are worn inside schools.

“The health and safety of our students and staff is always a top priority and OKCPS will continue to work closely with our public health officials,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ full statement is as follows:

“We know our students learn best when they are in the school building and we are glad to be able to offer in-person learning 5 days a week to kick off the school year, which starts Monday, August 9th!

However, in order to keep OKCPS students and staff in our buildings, we need everyone to work together as a community. Science tells us that the two most important mitigation strategies in the school setting are the appropriate wearing of masks and vaccinations. We highly encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to do so as soon as possible. Because our youngest learners can not yet be vaccinated, we are asking our families and staff to consider wearing a mask to help protect them.

Unfortunately, the Governor and State Legislature have taken decision-making authority regarding these two measures out of the control of school districts and their boards. Despite this, OKCPS’ safety plan utilizes layers of mitigation, including cleaning, physical distancing, air ionization systems, contact tracing, robust testing and vaccination plans, as well as a focus on good hygiene practices, so that we can provide the safest possible environment for our students and staff. While not required, we strongly recommend wearing a mask anytime you are indoors and with other people.

The health and safety of our students and staff is always a top priority and OKCPS will continue to work closely with our public health officials.”

PAULA LEWIS, OKLAHOMA CITY SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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