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TULSA, Okla. – On Wednesday, Tulsa Public Schools Board President Stacey Woolley, Board Vice President Jania Wester, and Superintendent Deborah Gist released a joint letter about planning for the 2020-2021 school year. In the letter, Woolley, Wester, and Gist announced their intention to make a decision on Aug. 3 about how students, teachers, and team members will return to school for the 2020-2021 school year.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Families, Friends, and Team Members of Tulsa Public Schools:
Everyone from children to families to business leaders to teachers and other team members have the same question: Will students and teachers return to their school buildings at the end of the summer?
With this letter, we wish to suggest and answer a different question that we cannot ignore. How will we decide about our return to school on August 31?
As the leadership of Tulsa Public Schools, we wish to answer that question simply and directly. We will decide how we return to school by prioritizing the safety of our students, team members, their families, and the broader community. If a decision had to be made today, July 15th, we would recommend to the Board of Education that Tulsa Public Schools not return to school in person. Despite our deep desire to see our students back in our schools and our appreciation that students’ families also need and want them back in school, such a return would be reckless. Right now, the coronavirus is spreading too rapidly and too many members of our community would be put at risk.
We will decide based on safety, and by paying special attention to the safety of not only the students and their families but also the adults who work in our schools. From them, we’ve heard a chorus of similar sentiments:
“Please do not bow to peer pressure. We need to do what is best for the health and safety of staff and students.”
“Please listen to the doctors. Safety is the top priority, and it doesn’t always match people’s opinions.”
“I lost my dad to COVID-19…I had not seen him in person for two months because his facility was locked down. From his positive test to his death took only seven days….This disease is dangerous and deadly. I urge you to err on the side of caution.”
The inextricable relationship between the well-being of our team and the success of our students has never been more clear than it is today. So when we make the decision about our reopening, it will be with everyone’s needs in mind. That absolutely includes the safety of Team Tulsa–the amazing people who fill many roles in our district serving students each day.
During the last week in July, we will partner with public health officials and assess the risks. And on August 3, we will make a decision about how we will return: in-person, distance, or with a social distancing staggered attendance. Every Tulsan can play a part in our August 3rd announcement by wearing a mask every day, starting today.
We close with the words of a Tulsa Public Schools teacher: “We only have one chance to get this right. We won’t have a second chance to say: ‘Let’s try again!’ We won’t be able to erase the damage that will have been done.”
The district will is planning for three flexible scheduling options based on community spread of COVID-19: traditional in-person learning, a hybrid model with distance and in-person learning with staggered attendance to allow for social distancing, or a return to the distance learning model used in the spring semester.
Tulsa Public Schools will make a decision about the planned mode of return on Monday, Aug. 3. The 2020-2021 calendar includes distance learning on Wednesdays in both the in-person and hybrid models. Tulsa Public Schools is also offering a virtual school option with registration open later this week.
Visit www.tulsaschools.org/back2school for more information about planning for the 2020-2021 school year.