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TPS Making Final Preparations for Students to Start Returning to Classrooms Next Week

Matt Trotter

Tulsa Public Schools is making the final preparations for pre-K and kindergarten students to be the first to return in-person next week.

The TPS Board approved Monday night a district mask policy requiring students and adults to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths most of the time while at school or on a school bus. Repeated violations could lead to a student being moved to distance learning. There are exceptions for people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks.

The board also approved the purchase of up to $1.5 million in protective equipment like desk dividers, disinfecting wipes and air filters that can trap virus-laden droplets, and they accelerated installation of new ventilation systems and drinking fountains with bottle fillers at certain schools.

Board President Stacey Woolley said even with safety measures in place, the district needs families to take precautions away from school if kids are going to stay in the classroom.

"We need to give our students the best chance to be back in as much as we can, but we also need to rely on society to say, 'Oh, well, maybe we can’t go to a restaurant,'" Woolley said.

Asked whether there is a number of COVID cases for the district to return to distance learning, Chief Operations Officer Jorge Robles said the Tulsa Health Department recommends doing so when 10% of a school’s teachers and/or students are in quarantine or isolation, but officials see that as a threshold, not a trigger.

"Depending on all the other information — if that school is in a hot spot area or not, what are the nature of the cases that you’re examining — but at that point, you want to consider options, or taking actions, because that is when you might accelerate a broader outbreak within that school," Robles said.

Pre-K and kindergarten students return next Monday for in-person learning Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will remain distance learning days.

First through third graders will return on the same schedule Nov. 16, and fourth through sixth graders at elementary schools on Nov. 30.

Middle, junior high and high school students will not return to their classrooms until the new year. Families have the option to keep their children in distance learning.

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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