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State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has created guidelines for districts to use as school boards across Oklahoma decide when to reopen classrooms. Tulsa World file

Anxiety is already building about how and when schools will start in the fall.

It wasn’t helped by a Fox News story reporting that Gov. Kevin Stitt says Oklahoma is considering starting classes a couple of weeks early. The comments came from a call with President Donald Trump’s task force to reopen the economy.

Stitt’s press secretary said the comment was taken out of context and that local boards will decide when schools will reopen.

The law and good sense leave this issue in the hands of local school boards.

Local school boards are publicly elected to oversee local school operations. Part of that job is approving school calendars.

The Legislature could mandate a statewide school start date, but lawmakers have wisely left that decision to the local boards, which best understand the needs of their students, parents, faculty and staff.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has opted to create guidelines for districts to use, leaving decisions to school boards.

Many factors will go into deciding how and when schools will resume in the fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed gaps in internet connectivity, leaving some families and entire areas unable to connect with public schools online.

Administrators, teachers and staff have done a remarkable job finding temporary solutions to those challenges, but it may be time to use emergency federal education aid to shore up this inequity on a permanent solution.

Other considerations for local boards to consider will be child care availability, hunger, parent involvement, special education accommodations and the way the virus has spread or been contained.

School boards may decide an early start date is a good idea, but only if it can be done safely and with sufficient funding to pay teachers for a longer school year.

Even without a pandemic, setting a universal, statewide starting date would be a difficult task.

Local school board members have the perspective needed to decide what is in the best interest of students and their communities.


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