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Governor Kevin Stitt announced the State of Oklahoma is allocating $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to supply Oklahoma schools with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in order to open safely for in-person learning.
Joined by Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives Justin Brown and education stakeholders from across the state, Governor Stitt stressed the importance of the health and safety of students and teachers while highlighting the need for schools to resume.
“Schools are an essential part of our society,” said Governor Stitt. “It is critically important that they operate safely and effectively for all students.
“I am committed to providing our schools with the resources and support they need in order to welcome students back to the classroom while also prioritizing their health.”
Based on personnel data and requests from the State Department of Education, the State will be providing the following PPE to Oklahoma schools:
• 1.7 million reusable masks (two per teacher and student)
• 42,000 clear face shields
• 1.2 million pairs of disposable gloves
• 1.2 million disposable gowns.
PPE will be distributed through the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to regional warehouses across the state for school districts to pick up— with a goal to deliver PPE by August 14.
In addition, the governor announced Third Amended Executive Order 2020-20, directing the State Health Department to partner with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to develop a plan by August 21 for teachers to be tested for COVID-19 monthly.
Governor Stitt and Secretary Brown also discussed the consequences associated with closed schools.
“Sixty percent of Oklahoma students qualify for free and reduced breakfast and lunch, and many consume half of their daily calories at school.
“Our child nutrition workers have done a great job innovating providing meals while schools have been closed, but we know that is not a sustainable long-term strategy to serve all kids,” continued Governor Stitt.
“The lack of in-person instruction keeps students from accessing a variety of important mental health and social services, and it widens achievement gaps across income levels and races that existed before COVID-19. These disparities can worsen and cause serious, hard-to-repair damage to the education of our kids.”
“As important public health decisions are made, there are critical trade-offs that impact the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Secretary Brown. “In times of stress, we all expect that cases of child abuse and neglect to increase.
“The nation is struggling with the fact that actual reports of child abuse and neglect are down dramatically. Teachers play a critical role in recognizing abuse, and it is clear that our kids are not being seen by their teachers.
“In April of 2019, educators reported 767 cases of suspected abuse and neglect. In April of 2020, that number reduced to just 57 cases.”