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TPS Superintendent: Some Students May Have To Return To Remote Learning

As of August 1st, about 2% of unvaccinated people hospitalized for COVID have been between five and 17 years old. Almost 24% have been between the ages of 50 and 64.

As COVID-19 spikes, Tulsa Public Schools are set to return to in-person learning on Aug. 19. 


Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools Dr. Deborah Gist said in a press conference Monday TPS wants kids in schools, but there are factors that could drive a return to remote learning.


“We do not want any situation where classrooms or schools are having to shift between distance learning and in-person learning. However, I want to point out we have a number of things that are going on that this could happen at times. Not as a system, but with classrooms or schools or groups of students.”


Gist said the factors are a teacher shortage — including a substitute teacher shortage — the fact that only 15% of students 12-17 are vaccinated, and the 17,000 students who are too young to get vaccinated now.


Gist said schools will be observing safety precautions, including cleaning and keeping "hand washing stations" active. She also mentioned the recent investment in ventilation that was part of the last TPS bond package passed by voters in June.


Gist said students need to mask up, too, and she struck an optimistic tone despite a new state law preventing schools from requiring masks.


“What we will see is a tremendous amount of consistency with wearing masks because of the ability of that to protect one’s own self and family, but also friends and classmates and the broader community.”


Students transmitting in the community is a concern. Current data shows that the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection in children is very low, though public health officials say the more transmissible Delta variant is a game changer.


Delta’s severity in kids and adults is still being studied. About half of adults over the age of 65 who test positive now are being admitted to the hospital. Hospitalizations have significantly risen in the 50-64 age group, as well, according to the latest data from the state department of health.


Reverend Dr. Robert Turner also spoke at the press conference. He said he understands mistrusting the government as far as vaccines are concerned since he’s from Tuskegee, Alabama.


“Where the government, the United States government, gave syphilis to Black men from 1932 to 1972 and watched it, even after penicillin came out. So I know personally the skepticism that people share. I lived that. I was born in that.”


Turner said his family prayed for the vaccine, and he encourages everyone who is eligible to get it. 


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