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PM NewsBrief: July 28, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, July 28, 2023.

Recap Of Public Comments At State Board Of Education Meeting

Tempers flared and emotions ran high at Thursday's state board of education meeting.

Dozens of people offered their opinions during the nearly two-hour public comment period.

Several themes emerged such as attacks on the LGBTQ+ community:

“The goal of the NEA is to queer all children. These groups want kids to grow up to be a transgender, vote Democrat, become a sex worker, and possibly a sex toy for a pedophile.”

“The Old Testament says that homosexuality is an abomination. The New Testament says it’s a perversion.”

Making the case for Christian nationalism:

“The name, the Lord Jesus Christ, belongs in academia.”

“When we as a society decided to take God out of the classrooms, the Bible out of the classrooms, the Bible and the classrooms, that truly was the beginning of the decay in our society.”

And calling for Superintendent Ryan Walters’ resignation:

“We get it. You want to be noticed by the big britches in DC. You want spicy little sound bites for your friends at Fox News. You want members of the anti-government extremist group Moms for Liberty to giggle and huddle around you for selfies so that your face can appear in Facebook feeds across the state. I am pleading with you as an Oklahoman - stop the insanity. Step aside and let someone who cares more for our children than their political aspirations take your place.”

Several people spoke in support of Walters and the policies he enacted this year.

Critics say Walters’ inflammatory rhetoric encourages more volatile meeting atmospheres, and that is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The board’s next meeting is August 24.

Shawnee High School Under Construction

The Shawnee School District started rebuilding its tornado damaged high school.

Construction is expected to continue for the next 18-to-20 months.

The school took a direct hit from a tornado in April, and sustained significant damage.

School officials say the building is safe for classes, but sports games will have to be held in other locations.

The football team is expected to play on the Oklahoma Baptist University football field.

Shawnee students return to class on August 10.

Oklahoma City Heat Mapping Campaign

Oklahoma City neighborhoods with fewer trees than pavement called urban heat islands can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby areas that have more trees and grass.

One project could help policy-makers identify vulnerable areas within the city.

The city’s sustainability office is working with OU and the environmental non-profit organization OKC Beautiful to undertake a heat mapping campaign on Aug. 12.

The mapping project from this campaign could help OU researchers develop a heat vulnerability index for Oklahoma City.

And the city is looking for volunteers to help with the project.

Dr. Wenwen Cheng is the principal investigator of the Oklahoma City Heat Vulnerability Index and a professor of landscape architecture at OU.

She told OU that residents of the JFK neighborhood east of downtown OKC mentioned concerns about air pollution and needs for trees and sidewalks in their neighborhood environment.

The data gathered will include social and economic demographics, health conditions, and urban climate and environmental factors.

It could be used to help policy-makers make decisions about better urban design that alleviates the heat island effect in some parts of the city.

Update on Oklahoma Drought

Drought continues to improve in Oklahoma, but one expert is worried the progress could regress quickly.

A little more than half of Oklahoma is drought free, according to the latest drought monitor report.

What’s more noteworthy is the Oklahoma Mesonet's measure of relative greenness across the state. It shows the darkest, or the highest level of so-called greenness, is in the panhandle of all places.

State Climatologist Gary McManus says west central Oklahoma and the panhandle are the wettest they’ve been in at least the last century.

But other areas of Oklahoma aren’t as fortunate. Days without any rainfall are starting to add up.

According to McManus we’re in prime flash drought territory, especially south of Interstate-40.

It’s been about three weeks since at least a quarter-inch of rain fell in some areas.

The heat and lack of rain are expected to stretch for at least another 7-10 days.

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