A letter from the POE legal team:

POE has learned that a few school districts are requiring “all certified staff” or teachers to report to work next week. This is not appropriate. We expect all Oklahoma school districts to comply with the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s mandate to cease operations of public schools as follows:

On March 16, the State Board of Education ordered all accredited public schools to cease operations, effective March 17 until April 6, 2020.

What is included in “operations” that must be ceased?

All instructional services, grading and extracurricular activities, staff development, trainings and conferences must cease. However, essential clerical and administrative activities such as business management (i.e, encumbrance clerk, human resources, fiscal services, governance), nutrition services and maintenance may continue as needed.

Does the order to cease operational closures prohibit a school district from compelling staff to attend or to be present at school? Yes.

The Board’s order only authorizes essential clerical and administrative activities and services to continue during the period of closure. While each determination of what is “essential clerical and administrative activities” is a local decision, examples of this may be business management (i.e., encumbrance clerk, human resources, physical services and governance), nutrition services and maintenance may continue as needed.

“These types of requests not only violate the specific directives from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, but also do not comply with health guidelines from state and federal authorities on social distancing and prohibition on meeting in large groups.” Again, each local district may determine what essential clerical and administrative activities that may need to be performed during this unprecedented time, but requiring teachers to report to work next week is not appropriate.

Blake Sonne
General Counsel
Professional Oklahoma Educators