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StateImpact Oklahoma

Here’s What School Could Look Like For Oklahoma Students Next Fall

May 28, 2020

The coronavirus will change school next fall.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has issued a series of guidelines for schools. But will we see a statewide shutdown of schools and shift to distance learning next fall like we did this spring?

Photo Courtesy Jobs For Felons Hub

Staff inside the Comanche County Detention Center knew they had a problem when the number of prisoners infected with Covid-19 reached 18 in early May.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister address the media during a press conference March 12 about COVID-19 and the potential for school closures.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

School is about to be out for summer.

Spring 2020 was a semester like no other after Oklahoma schools switched to a distance learning environment to combat the spread of COVID-19.

But another semester like this one is unlikely next year. Earlier this week, the State Department of Education laid out several options for school calendars that should prevent massive closures and a statewide shift to distance learning.

Two students look on during Howe High School's graduation ceremony at the Tower Drive-In Theater in Poteau.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Howe High School graduation wasn’t supposed to be at dusk in the shadow of Poteau’s Cavanal Mountain.

There weren’t supposed to be funnel cakes.

There weren’t supposed to be car horns.

But COVID-19 created a need for a different kind of graduation ceremony for the tiny Oklahoma town’s graduating class of 39. So, it was moved from the gymnasium to a nearby drive-in movie theater.

Scott Crow is head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Prisons across the United States are struggling with a rash of COVID-19 infections. In Oklahoma, two prisoners and nine corrections employees have tested positive for the disease.

StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler spoke with Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow about the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 in prisons.

A letter sent out by the Council for Great City Schools calls for stimulus funding to head off an "educational catastrophe." The letter was signed by OKC Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel and Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist
Courtesy Council of Great City Schools

Without a massive bailout from the federal government, the nation’s largest school districts face an “educational catastrophe,” according to a letter signed by Tulsa and Oklahoma City’s superintendents.

In Moore, students are getting messages in 30-plus languages other than English.

Moore Public Schools is using different methods from recorded phone messages to an application that translates text messages in real time to communicate with its English learners, — those students who live in homes where English isn’t the primary language spoken.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow say new rules will prevent mistakes during future executions.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a possibility state supplies of sedatives, paralytics and other drugs could be useful in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board met remotely through a ZOOM webinar.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Prison is one of the most risky places to be during a viral pandemic. Doctors around the country who are familiar with prison and jail environments say prison conditions will only accelerate the coronavirus’ spread.

Oklahoma School Districts Conduct Distance Learning Without The Internet

Apr 9, 2020
A Zoom meeting between Pryor Public Schools assistant superintendent Tiffany Ballard and teachers.
Courtesy Tiffany Ballard

Monday was a new kind of first day of school in Oklahoma: the first one back since schools shuttered after spring break to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Members of the Washita-Custer County Treatment Court during a community service event in 2019.
Courtesy of the Washita-Custer County Treatment Court

Sarah Morrow misses the routine and structure drug court provided.

“It’s just something to look forward to everyday,” Morrow said.

Morrow has asthma which means she could have a harder time recovering if she catches Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

How The University Of Oklahoma Moved Its Classes Online

Mar 27, 2020
The University of Oklahoma campus. The Norman campus is empty because students have moved all their in-person classes to the web.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

As the COVID-19 pandemic has halted businesses, public events and K-12 schools, Oklahoma’s higher education institutions have turned to virtual schooling for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.

Oklahoma Schools Will Close For Rest Of Semester, Moving Classes Online

Mar 25, 2020
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister address the media during a press conference March 12 about COVID-19 and the potential for school closures.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma schools will remain shuttered for the spring 2020 semester to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Roger Mills County Jail Control Room
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

During a viral pandemic jail administrators want fewer prisoners, not more.

To help, some district courts are issuing orders to decrease their county jail populations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shawnee Public Schools custodian Lavonne Harris wipes down a door knob at the district’s central office.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lysol is Lavonne Harris’ most powerful weapon against pandemic.

The custodian for Shawnee Public Schools is wielding the disinfectant inside her district’s school board room to fight off the novel coronavirus that’s infected hundreds of thousands worldwide.

This stuff will “kill all the germs,” she says.

A sign outside the Sterling High School gymnasium warns people that teachers may be armed.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

A bill considered by the state legislature would change training requirements for armed teachers, paving the way for more guns in schools.

Jason Page and Paul Mullaney inside the state Capitol in 2018.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Low pay is at the center of Oklahoma’s struggle to keep its prison employees.

Six-year veteran corrections officer Paul Mullaney quit over pay and working conditions just months after lawmakers approved a $2.00 raise for prison employees. He worked in the mental health unit of Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

The extra money wasn’t enough to keep him.

Engineering student Duncan Martin touches noses with Sophie, a member of Pete's Pet Posse. The therapy dogs can be found around the Oklahoma State University campus.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

With 80 percent of college students reporting anxiety or depression, schools have to find a way to help students.

Pardon and Parole Board members have drastically increased the number of recommendations for commutations and paroles in the last year.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

A popular desire for reform led lawmakers to push the release of hundreds of people from Oklahoma prisons in a record commutation last year. The climactic event was born from a series of reforms that have moved Oklahoma away from the number one spot for incarceration. But that progress might be temporary.


This is the Manager’s Minute.

Recently, we had to say so long to StateImpact Oklahoma health reporter Jackie Fortier. She left after a little over two years at StateImpact to take a job at the NPR station in Pasadena, California.

During her time with us, Jackie achieved national recognition for covering the opioid trial in Cleveland County.

It’s a testament to Jackie, and the quality of reporting at StateImpact, that she went directly from here to the number two media market in the U.S.