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Sunday afternoon Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel sent an email to families and staff that the district still plans to resume classes Monday, March 23 after spring break.

But, he also said that spring break is giving the district time to watch developments of the COVID-19 coronavirus developments in Oklahoma and make different decisions during the week if circumstances warrant it.

“Not the day”

“While we may eventually decide to extend Spring Break as we gather more information and receive additional guidance, today is not the day to make that decision,” McDaniel wrote.

McDaniel said district staff had “participated in numerous conference calls and webinars over the past 72 hours and I have spoken directly to the heads of our state agencies.”

He said “the prevailing thought” is to wait before canceling school. But, they are watching developments closely.

Supt Sean McDaniel
OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Food insecurity

OKCPS is the largest district in the state and also the one with the most food-insecure students who depend on school for core nourishment.

In fact, because of the high percentage of students at just above the level of qualifying for free and reduced meals, the district received a grant that would allow all students in the district to receive free and reduced meals.

“…our staff is continuing to finalize plans for feeding students if the decision is made to extend Spring Break,” McDaniel wrote.

“We are also working with state officials and our legal team as we explore ways to provide instruction and services to all of our students, especially those with the most significant challenges.”

If the coronavirus pandemic comes to Oklahoma in a way that causes the district to extend spring break, OKCPS and other districts around the state have been requesting permission for federal funds normally channeled to free and reduced breakfast and lunch in school to be extended to the time school is closed to control spread of the disease.

Meals continued

The Oklahoma State Department of Education applied for four waivers that would help schools and communities to provide meals to students of districts that are closed during an indefinite time of responding to the pandemic.

Then, late in the day Saturday, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford tweeted “My office received word today that USDA has approved OK State Department of Ed request to continue meal services, even during school closures.”

That will give the district the clearance at the state level to work out a plan for meeting the needs of the most food-insecure students in the district.

Recent experience

OKCPS worked out a plan for feeding students during the teacher walkout of 2018 which started during spring break but was sure to continue beyond.

The district’s Board of Education voted to support the walkout and close school.

As a part of that plan, OKCPS worked out a way to deliver meals to students as long as the walkout lasted.

It is not yet clear how much of that experience will figure into contingency plans for a response to the walkout.


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