State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister answered back to school questions with News 9's political analyst, Scott Mitchell.
Hofmeister said school districts are continuing to pour over data to figure out what’s best for our schools.
She said there are some school districts that should reopen depending on how many COVID-19 cases are in their area.
“It depends on the level of transmission in your school district,” Hofmeister said during the Facebook Live with Mitchell. “There are some places in Oklahoma where we should be opening, and now we have some initial PPE, that will allow for lowering the risk when students and staff come together.”
The superintendent said recommendations from the state Board of Education are based on where there are more COVID-19 cases and a larger population.
She said if classrooms are able to social distance, are not in the middle of a surge, and schools have enough PPE, then teachers should feel comfortable about getting back into the school year.
Hofmeister said the other countries were able to successfully open schools back up and stay open all have the same things in common. That includes regular hand washing, social distancing, and, more importantly, wearing masks. She said the whole school will get the maximum benefit if everyone wears a mask.
“When you wear one, it gives you a 30% reduction in the transmission. It lowers the viral load that you breathe in. But when others wear a mask, it actually benefits everyone around them, 70% lowering that viral load,” she said.
The superintendent said she’s very appreciative after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced $10 million federal aid from the federal CARES Act will go to buying PPE for schools. She said the new masks, shields, disposable gloves, and gowns for all the districts will be invaluable.
Hofmeister said it will be tricky to practice social distancing in crowded classrooms and school buses. That’s why superintendents across the country are working with the CDC and focusing on layering safeguards.
“For instance, a mask mandate is going to be more important in that setting than simply letting that be voluntary,” Hofmeister said. “We really need to think about applying those safeguards in those contacts that it fits. The CDC says it has to be practical, feasible, and acceptable in the local context.”
“If a community will mask up, we can crush this virus and help our kids have in-person learning which is what we really want," she said.
The state superintendent said the Board of Education is revising a list of commonly asked questions. You can find it’s current FAQ here.