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TPS Again Pushes Back Return Dates For In-Person Learning

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The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday to approve a set of recommendations from Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist, again changing plans for a return to in-person learning following a year significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This recommendation reflects a balance that we're trying to find on how to prepare for today, how to manage for the immediate future, and how to be ready for the changes that are likely to play out between now and January," Gist said at a board work session on Monday afternoon.

Students at all grade levels were due to be allowed back to classrooms for in-person instruction on Jan. 4. Now, students in pre-kindergarten through third grade will be allowed back beginning on Jan. 25, with the rest of the student body following on Feb. 1.

Gist said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, told her, "and this is a direct quote: January 4th is too soon to come back to the classroom after the holidays."

In a Monday letter to district families about the changes, Gist said parents will be able to have their students remain in distance learning. They have until Jan. 12 to make a change to mode of instruction. 

Board members Dr. Jerry Griffin and Pastor Jennettie Marshall were the two votes against Gist's proposal.

"People just want to be left alone. They want this board to be decisive and make a decision, and not go back and forth," Marshall said. "Because now we're dealing with not just COVID, but we're dealing with the trauma. Not just the trauma of COVID, but the trauma of the lack of decisiveness."

"We can't stop" the pandemic, Marshall said. "It's out of our hands, except by making a conscious decision to say, 'Let's stay out of school until we start a new school year. Let's implement distance learning, and let's assist the children in the best way we know how.'"

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