Updated Jan. 15, 4:40 p.m.
Tulsa Public Schools students will not start returning to school later this month as planned.
The TPS Board voted 4–3 in a special meeting Friday to keep students on distance learning until March 22, citing local COVID numbers and a recommendation by Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart.
Board members John Croisant, Jerry Griffin and Jennettie Marshall voted against moving back students' return. Members Shawna Keller, Suzanne Schreiber, Jania Wester and Stacey Woolley voted for it.
Schreiber said she's well aware many students' mental health is deteriorating away from school.
"But I cannot have Dr. Dart say that he recommends for us not to go to school and defy that. I cannot look at my fellow board members and the circumstances that they’re experiencing with their own children and grandchildren sick and know the number of anecdotes of teachers who have suffered loss of spouses," Schreiber said.
Pre-K through third grades were slated to return Jan. 25, while older students were scheduled to come back Feb. 1.
The board also on Friday voted to extend the first semester so it ends February 5. That will give students who are struggling an opportunity to improve their grades by submitting or redoing assignments, quizzes and tests designated by their teachers.
"This is not academic amnesty. Our teachers cannot help students if students are not turning in work. So, we want to provide more time and space to help our students turn in that work and redo that work," said Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon.
Board member Jennettie Marshall praised the plan, saying it seems most students’ academic struggles come down to problems participating in school virtually.
"The recommendation speaks to addressing whatever issues that our families, our children are having in actually getting acclimated to participate in their success. Because the teachers are saying, 'If they participate, we can take them over the hump,'" Marshall said.
TPS will continue providing meals for all Tulsa children under 18 while students are on distance learning. Meal locations and times are available at tulsaschools.org/mealsites.