On Thursday, the State Board of Education is expected to discuss a mask mandate for Oklahoma’s public schools. It isn’t clear what the board has in mind – or even the breadth of its legal authority to require face coverings.
Only this much appears certain: With just weeks until most schools are set to reopen, many teachers, students, administrators, and parents are anguishing around-the-clock over whether in-class instruction is safe.
Their angst is made worse by conflicting messages from a president and governor who are hell-bent on throwing open schoolhouse doors, despite soaring COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma and new South Korean research that suggests 10- to 19-year-olds spread the coronavirus just as much as adults.
With today’s Observercast – Episode 27: This Is What Small Government Looks like – we launch a month-long series of back-to-school conversations about the state of public education in Oklahoma. Our first guest is Tulsa state Rep. John Waldron, a 20-year classroom teacher who offers keen insight into why our state was uniquely unprepared to serve its students amid a deadly pandemic. He also offers specific steps to keep students, teachers, support staff, administrators and parents healthy and safe until there is a vaccine and a blueprint for a brighter long-term future for Oklahoma public education.
Correction: The posting has been updated to correct the date the State Board of Education will consider a mask mandate. The meeting is Thursday.