OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — State superintendent Joy Hofmeister joined multiple education officials for a State of the Schools event in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. But unlike previous years, COVID is on the top of many educators’ minds.
“Back to school season is typically a season of opportunity and hope,” Hoffmeister said during her address during the event. “While excitement and high hopes are certainly palpable this week, so is uncertainty.”
The event comes as Hoffmeister prepares for her meeting with Governor Stitt this week. It’s a meeting that happens every year before many school districts start the school year. As many in the state are calling for the reversal of SB 658, a piece of legislation that prohibits schools from implementing their own mask mandates, Hofmeister says that won’t be the main focus of their meeting.
“The truth of it is [that] any attempt for an appeal is actually too late,” Hofmeister said. “We have to deal with what’s happening right now, and what is most important is that one, vaccines happen and that two, we have our ability at the local level to respond to the delta variant.”
She says this year, those vaccines will be key to keeping schools open.
“That’s what’s gonna make a big difference in allowing schools to have teachers and classrooms that aren’t getting sick,” Hofmeister said.
With local universities also preparing for the fall, OSU president Kayse Shrum says last year’s model for COVID protocol helps them prepare for this year.
“we’re gonna continue to follow the plans that we have put in place in learning from our experience last year and adjusting and being prepared for those when they happen,” Shrum said.
Although the university can’t mandate masks, similar to Hofmeister, President Shrum says one main focus will be on vaccines.
“We’re gonna follow CDC guidelines we’re going to be in compliance with the state of Oklahoma,” Shrum said. “But we’re gonna focus on encouraging our students to wear masks and to get vaccinated.”