Superintendent focused on traditional 2020-21 school year
By Jeff Harrison
The school week could include the weekend.
Public school districts during the 2020-21 school year will have the option to use Saturday as an instructional day due to COVID-19.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 5-2 last Thursday to allow Saturday to grant waivers to a state law that prohibits classes on Saturday. The board met virtually for the special board meeting.
State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the change will provide flexibility for school districts in planning their school year. She emphasized that it would be up to local school districts to decide.
“Some are considering a schedule Plan A where everyone goes back to school just as normal, then they’re building Plan B, Plan C, Plan D,” Hofmeister said. “And there could be a need if there was an outbreak in their community or school to not have students in class all day or on rotating days. This would provide an additional day if they are going to look at these hybrid models or contingency based planning.”
Estella Hernandez, board member, opposed the Saturday school plan, saying the state should consider other alternatives and protect weekends for students and staff.
“Students have gone through a lot of stress emotionally and mentally, and for us to open up and take away that weekend time that they have with their families, and their time being together in church or activities would not be a wise thing,” she said.
Hofmeister said she believes districts would use Saturday as an option for a rotating schedule rather than a six-day school week. She said the decision could be reevaluated later if necessary.
“Looking at this from an efficiency standpoint, this is no one’s Plan A,” Hofmeister said.
Current state laws prohibit schools from offering Saturday school to count towards the 180 day or 1,080 hours requirement. Districts can request waivers to the statute.
Mid-Del Schools Superintendent Rick Cobb does not anticipate holding Saturday classes.
“I have no desire to have Saturday classes and I can’t imagine why we’d use it,” Cobb said. “We’re looking forward to having classes again Monday through Friday.”
Cobb said he appreciates the state providing that option.
“It’s nice to have the flexibility, but there’s nothing in our planning that makes me think that’s something we’d want to do,” Cobb said.
Cobb said they plan to modify the district calendar and move professional development days to the beginning of the year, allowing for more teacher training. Mid-Del Schools is set to begin the school year on Aug. 12.