TPS Officials: Staggered Attendance Best Option for Safe, In-Person Classes

Jul 22, 2020

Tulsa Public Schools officials are calling a staggered attendance model the best shot at safe, in-person classes this fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

They will present to the TPS Board three attendance models other than a recently announced Virtual Academy: in-person attendance with virtual days on Wednesdays, staggered attendance and distance learning. Superintendent Deborah Gist said Wednesday during a Facebook live question-and-answer session the district could be on any of those models during the year.

The staggered attendance model would see students split into cohorts that will attend Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays, with everyone on a virtual instruction day on Wednesdays to allow for schools to be cleaned and disinfected.

TPS Chief Innovation Officer Andrea Castañeda said having everyone at school at the same time doesn’t allow for social distancing.

"We’re supposed to be 6 feet apart. And then you picture that in a school, you start to realize, oh, like, cafeterias don’t look the same, hallways don’t look the same, lockers don’t function the same way anymore, bathrooms – all of the spaces in a school need to be rethought," Castañeda said.

Options like half days or alternating weeks were thought too logistically difficult.

The TPS Board will also consider a mask requirement. Gist said district officials have been going back and forth on one, initially considering it for adults and older students based on information indicating kids younger than 10 may not widely spread the virus.

"The latest of what we’re seeing is that really, everyone should have on a mask. And we recognize that with younger children that’s different, but we do need to expect it and, you know, give them more breaks and things like that," Gist said.

TPS is offering a Virtual Academy for families who are not comfortable sending their kids back to school on Aug. 31.