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Several Tulsa Public Schools sites start year in distance learning due to COVID-related staff absences

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Chris Polansky / KWGS News
Will Rogers High School in Tulsa.

Several Tulsa Public Schools sites were closed to in-person learning on the first day of the new quarter Tuesday, with district officials citing staff absences as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to drive a local and national surge in infections.

Will Rogers, McLain and Central high schools suspended in-person learning Tuesday. Will Rogers and Central also suspended in-person learning at their middle schools.

District officials and members of the board of education said Monday that parents should anticipate further closures.

"We should expect that we will be seeing some shifts to distance learning to address some of the absences that we might see from the adults in the building due to the increase in rates that we could see after the holiday break," TPS chief operations officer Jorge Robles told the board at a regular meeting Monday evening.

"I encourage everyone to try to get a Plan B going, just in case, because it seems like it's a good likelihood that we are going to be having — you know, your school might close or your kids might have to stay home one day," board Vice President Suzanne Schreiber told parents.

"I know it's really tough and that, you know, there might not be a lot of resources," Schreiber said. "I encourage you to reach out to a neighbor, even, you know, reach out to one of your board members and say, 'Do you have ideas about how I can get coverage?' Because we might."

Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said in-person learning for all students remains the district's goal.

"We're doing everything we can to keep all of our schools in-school, in-person," Gist said. "In the event that a school is not able to be in-person, just know that it was, you know, that many, many different things were attempted."

Per a Monday letter from Gist to parents, Tulsa Public Schools still does not have a mask requirement for students, though they say they have an "expectation" that elementary students wear them. The district merely recommends masking at its middle and high schools.

The district says masks are still required on school buses, citing a federal order requiring their usage aboard public transportation.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.