Members of the House Republican Caucus issued a statement Wednesday in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s call for students to return to in-person learning in schools amid updated safety protocols.
Among the many Republican state representatives supporting the statement are all four with districts that include Garvin County.
“The majority of Oklahoma parents and guardians have chosen in-person learning as the best option for their child, and many have told us they want their children back in school. A recent medical study showed that 99.96% of 90,000 students and staff studied did not catch COVID-19 at school, and there were zero cases of child-to-adult within-school transmission. This shows us that we can safely return students and educators to in-person learning with proper safety protocols in place with extremely minimal risk. Governor Stitt’s decision is the right, safe thing to do for our children, their families and our state educators.”
The four representing parts of Garvin County are Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka; State Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay; State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle; and State Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore.
The governor on Tuesday announced that Oklahoma schools following safety protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, will be permitted to forgo the mandatory two-week quarantine period for potential COVID-19 exposures.
The change is the result of requests from parents, teachers and school leaders. Enactment of the new guidelines is left to the discretion of each school district.
Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye also pointed out that other states such as Missouri, Utah and Ohio have put similar quarantine policies into place and haven’t seen large outbreaks occur in schools.
The governor said that refusing to offer in-person school is jeopardizing students’ education ad teachers’ careers, which in turn affects the entire state.
As part of the governor’s new policy, schools should continue to require quarantines for exposed students in situations where masking and distancing protocols were not followed. Additionally, the updated quarantine guidance does not apply if the exposure occurs during after-school activities, including sports.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must continue to isolate regardless where they contracted the virus or were wearing a mask.
The state is prioritizing vaccinations for teachers who are 65 and older this week and next and will open vaccinations up to all teachers as soon as vaccine availability allows. The state will also double the amount of rapid antigen tests provided to schools to encourage frequent testing to catch any positive cases early.
Frye also said schools have proven to be one of the safest places for most students.
He said, data also shows – and the CDC recommends – that getting students safely back to in-person learning is critical for their educational success, mental health and social development.