About $10 million of CARES Act funding is going towards personal protective equipment for schools across Oklahoma.
Governor Kevin Stitt made the announcement Thursday during a news conference in Oklahoma City.
The governor said he is leaving it up to local districts to decide how to hold school this fall.
He said he believes school should be held in-person and wants to provide PPE to those that return.
The state will provide 1.7 million reusable masks: two per teacher and two per student.
It will also pay for $42,000 clear face shields, 1.2 million pairs of disposable gloves and 1.2 million disposable gowns.
Gov. Stitt said kids have already been playing youth sports this summer and that online instruction will not reduce the chance of students being exposed outside the classroom.
“If schools do not open in person, it is not feasible to think students and teachers will stay home and will not come in contact with anyone else,” Stitt said.
The governor said he wants to get the PPE to schools by Aug. 14. There has been no word about providing funding for cleaning supplies.
Those items will go to schools like Crossover Preparatory Academy, an all-boys private school in north Tulsa.
Executive Director Philip Abode was one of the speakers at Gov. Stitt’s news conference. Abode said it’s important for his school to open in-person on Aug. 31.
“We have kids that, on average, are coming to us at least one, if not two, grades behind," Abode said.
The school has students in 6th grade through 10th grade, and it has just over 100 students. Abode said students will spread out, wear face coverings, get temperature checks and complete a COVID questionnaire. He said his students can learn many more values in-person than online.
“A lot of our kids are coming from single-parent homes," he said. "And so, we have several families that have their son at our school because they want him around positive male role models. And so you lose some of that in a virtual setting.”
Abode said, if a student or staff member tests positive for coronavirus they'll go to remote learning for a few weeks.
Meanwhile, Tulsa Public Schools is still waiting to see how it will hold school in the fall.
The district is requiring masks and was planning to provide face coverings. In a Facebook Live Thursday evening, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said she’s still learning about the state’s PPE funding and is grateful for it.
“We, of course, you know, have had plans underway for securing PPE," she said. "So, hopefully, we can pull some of those back and redirect some funding.”
However, the funding didn’t change her stance on distance learning for the first nine weeks of school.
“It sounds like a lot of money and it is, we appreciate the investment," she said. "But just know that PPE is really, really expensive so it probably doesn’t even cover our needs.”
In a statement, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister emphasized the need for PPE and thanked the governor for his assistance in providing it for schools across the state.
“It is critical that every effort be made for our kids and teachers to return to school, and the evidence is clear that face masks – along with face shields, gloves and gowns – are crucial for that to happen," Hofmeister said. "COVID-19 has created difficult decisions that require schools to offer families a number of instructional delivery options that best meet their needs. We thank Gov. Stitt and his team for their work in helping to provide PPE to our schools.“
Watch Gov. Stitt announce the state's plans for providing PPE assistance below.
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