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Older TPS Students to Come Back in Person after Winter Break


Tulsa Public Schools students in middle, junior and high schools will go back for in-person learning four days a week starting Jan. 4.

Those students would attend Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would continue to be distance learning days.

The TPS board on Monday night voted down a proposal to send them back starting on Nov. 30 on a 3–4 vote, then approved the post-winter break return 6–1. Board member Jerry Griffin was the lone vote against it, saying that’s too long to wait.

Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon said secondary schools are getting guidance to help limit students’ interactions, like scheduling long enough gaps so 1,000 kids don’t need to be in the hallways at once, but older kids can’t be constrained to limited groups like elementary students will be.

"In the keeping kids in the same group, the way a secondary schedule works, like, that’s not possible," Shannon said.

TPS requires masks that meet guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We’ve set clear expectations as a district around the use and wearage of masks and the criteria of when masks are required, and if for some reason you are not following the protocols, it will be handled as a disciplinary issue," said Chief Learning Officer Devin Fletcher.

Older students’ temperatures will not be taken. Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said TPS is working to secure a grant and other resources that would let them offer rapid coronavirus tests to every high school student and employee on a weekly basis.

"This is not being used for diagnostic purposes of individuals or to change people’s behavior but rather to track spread within the broader system. So, when we have positive cases, as needed, the health department has plans to then follow up with a PCR test and contact tracing," Gist said.

The TPS board voted last week to start bringing younger students back Nov. 9 for in-person learning on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will continue to be distance learning days. Pre-K and kindergarten students return Nov. 9, first through third graders Nov. 16, and all other elementary school students Nov. 30.

Families that don't want their children to return to school in person can remain in distance learning plans.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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