The Tulsa Public Schools Board on Tuesday night narrowly approved bringing students back in-person starting next week.
Fourth, fifth and sixth graders; seventh graders at junior high schools; ninth graders; and tier three and four students with special needs will return Tuesday. Other students will return Thursday.
For the rest of the year, students will attend in person Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will remain distance learning days. Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist’s recommendation passed 4–3, with board members Judith Barba, Shawna Keller and Jennettie Marshall voting against it.
Gist says local infection rates are down, and while TPS can’t guarantee 6 feet of physical distancing at all times as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the district is taking other steps, like requiring masks, setting up a testing program, and installing air filtration and scrubber systems that exceed CDC standards.
"I feel confident that we can manage this situation and manage the risk, and I would not be making this recommendation if I didn’t have that confidence because I do feel extremely responsible for our team members, our students and all of their families," Gist said.
Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said on a phone call with the CDC, they were told strictly following other measures like wearing masks and washing hands frequently would help minimize risk from not being able to keep students and staff 6 feet from each other at all times.
"If they can keep it at 3 feet, the CDC director says that as long as they manage the other layers, that’s still a huge safety mechanism," Dart said.
Parents are being encouraged to drive their children to school if able because physical distancing will be difficult on buses.
TPS officials and its board have not responded to months pressure by Gov. Kevin Stitt to bring students back for in-person school, instead waiting until local data, THD experts and federal guidance indicated it was safe.
Families may elect to stay on distance learning by Friday through the TPS enrollment website.