OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Stillwater Public Schools students and their families are suffering personal and financial hardships as a result of the district's distance and remote learning plan enacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of parents allege in a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit, filed in Payne County against the district, superintendent and board members, is demanding the district provide access to in-person classroom instruction and reopen all public school facilities.
“Education is a constitutional guarantee in Oklahoma. Our kids and families are entitled to a free and public education," said attorney Noah Fontanez, who is representing six parents who are plaintiffs in the case. “With this curtailment, they're simply not getting that, and it’s caused harm in the form of depression with these children, in the form of hardship financially with the families."
The district is currently offering a mixed schedule, dubbed the A-B plan, with students reporting to in-person classes two days a week and distance learning three days a week. Payne County is among about two dozen Oklahoma counties in the Orange 2 designation, the second highest level, with between 25 and 50 confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, according to State Health Department data.
A spokesman for the district, Barry Fuxa, said the district is following Oklahoma State Department of Education guidelines for determining when to limit in-person instruction.
In a statement, the district said every administrator, board member and parent faces challenges finding the proper balance for students' academic, social and physical wellbeing.
“It is disappointing that the pandemic has led to such a situation," the statement read. “Stillwater Public Schools and its board desire a safe return to full-time in-person instruction, and will continue to thoughtfully consider the important issues raised by these parents’ claims."
When a spike in coronavirus cases in the county earlier this month prompted the district to cancel the Stillwater High School football game against rival Bixby, more than 100 angry parents and students protested outside the district headquarters chanting “Let them play!"
EARLY VOTING IN TULSA
Tulsa County voters who plan to cast ballots during Oklahoma's three-day in person voting next month ahead of the Nov. 3 general election will do so at ONEOK Field, home to the Tulsa Drillers minor league baseball field.
Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman announced the change on Monday, saying the large, open-air stadium will offer a safer alternative for voters than the traditional locations of the Tulsa County Election Board office near downtown and the Hardesty Regional Library in South Tulsa.
Freeman said Tulsa County expects to send out between 100,000 and 130,000 absentee ballots for this year's election, a five-fold increase over the last presidential election.
LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
Oklahoma health officials on Monday reported 861 new confirmed coronavirus cases and one additional death due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The latest numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health bring the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 85,194 and the state's death toll to 1,007. The actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.