Sand Springs Superintendent Sherry Durkee

Sand Springs Superintendent of Schools Sherry Durkee. KIRK McCRACKEN/Sand Springs Leader

Sand Springs Public Schools students aren’t likely to be heading back to classrooms this school year, and extracurricular activities are probably over.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced Monday that she will offer a proposal Wednesday to the state school board that would end classroom instruction for the 2019-20 school year and halt extracurricular activities.

Hofmeister plans to resume teaching through distance learning.

“Our districts have begun planning their alternative delivery methods to support student learning as they prepare to reconnect students with their teachers in adaptive ways,” Hofmeister said in a press release.

Starting April 6, schools will be expected to provide distance learning. How that learning occurs “will vary widely, according to the capacity and needs of districts and their communities,” according to a press release from Hofmeister’s office.

“I have faith in the commitment, innovation and creativity of Oklahoma educators and administrators,” Hofmeister said. “Many districts across our state have utilized online instruction already and likely will be able to hit the ground running. Other districts have significant technology limitations, while some might opt for instructional materials delivered to students.”

State school board members will be attending Wednesday’s meeting virtually to review Hofmeister’s proposal.

Sand Springs currently offers full-time and blended virtual options for all grades.

Sand Springs superintendent Sherry Durkee wasn’t available for comment by press time Monday. However, in an interview last week, she noted the school has a virtual program.

Durkee said the program isn’t equipped to meet the needs of low-income families who lack access to the required technology. She said the district would do its best to minimize inequities.

In last week’s interview, Durkee said her focus has been on meeting the current needs of her employees and students. Only essential personnel have been permitted to work during the closure, and Sand Springs is one of the area districts providing free meals to kids.

Students are able to pick up breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at six “grab and go” sites — Charles Page High School, Limestone Technology Academy, Clyde Boyd Middle School, Garfield STEAM Academy, Central Ninth Grade Center and the Early Childhood Education Center.

“Our goal is to protect the public health and do our part in getting control of the situation,” Durkee said. “I think that’s our responsibility, honestly, as leaders in our districts.”

Durkee said she supported Hofmeister’s effort that secured a federal waiver to remove the requirement for statewide testing this year.

Durkee believes the lack of instruction at the beginning of the spring testing period combined with the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could have proved disastrous.

“This isn’t just about (physical) health,” Durkee said. “It’s also about that mental anxiety people have regarding this whole situation. I don’t think kids statistically would be fully investing their efforts into these tests, so I would be worried about the validity of the testing for sure.”

Kyle Hinchey


Twitter: @kylehinchey