Oklahoma Education Secretary Shames Schools For Covid Closures
If you're keeping count, Oklahoma is currently on our fourth big covid case spike event of the coronavirus pandemic. It's not just Lawton Public Schools that are electing to temporarily shut their doors due to the current number of covid-19 cases in the state, it's more widespread than outlets are reporting.
At the top of the education system in Oklahoma is Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, a McAlester alumn and once-finalist for Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year award. It's fair to say Secretary Walters knows his way around the classroom, but it's the politics that have him cast into obscurity these days.
Secretary Walters is currently using his platform to shame the public schools across the state that have elected to close temporarily due to skyrocketing covid-19 cases, Lawton included. It's a move that has as much support as it does opposition, Oklahoma politics as usual.
Some schools have so many educators out with covid-19 at the moment that classes have been congregated into massive study halls, auditoriums, lunchrooms, etc because there aren't enough adults to supervise the learning process in person. It seems swapping over to virtual until healthy-teacher numbers improve is the logical choice, but like everything else in the current state of the world, we have to play politics with it.
Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmiester is at odds with Secretary of Education Ryan Walters. She believes temporary closures will be the best way to deal with the current state of covid-19 cases in schools. As she has been at odds with Governor Stitt over covid-19 measures in Oklahoma schools since 2020, all of the people spend more time tossing shots at each other instead of coming together to find an actual solution.
As preventative covid-19 measures haven't been present across much of Oklahoma since Summer 2021, it was only natural that we would build back to this point. I'm surprised the normalcy lasted this long.
The biggest argument against virtual learning is that it's not as effective or comprehensive as in-person learning. It's a really weird self-loathing flex for the education system to suggest since most grades have offered an online choice in Oklahoma long before the pandemic started. As far back as 2002 "comprehensive classes" have been offered online.
Having sat in on some of my nephew's pandemic virtual/distance lessons last year, I would agree that it's lacking... but I still don't think that's a valid reason to avoid what could be a great tool.
Instead, here's a great chance for our Oklahoma Education Systems top leaders to come together and bulk up a system they initially swore was adequate, later admitted wasn't, and are now using their failure as the one reason they shouldn't try again going forward. After all, one of the most important lessons teachers teach is the importance of trying your best and never giving up.
If I had to forecast the future, I would say that each side would get their way. There will be days in school, covid outbreaks, days out of school, and repeat until the end of the school year... but I can't tell the future, I just know how I see politics work.
On a different note, homeschooling has seen a 12%+ boost in popularity over the last year. Coincidentally, cases of teachers sleeping with students are also down and that is great news.