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TULSA, Okla. – During its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, the Tulsa Board of Education voted to approve a recommendation that Tulsa Public Schools begin the 2020-2021 school year in the distance learning mode. The district plans for Tulsa students to remain in distance learning for the first nine weeks of the year. Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah A. Gist will recommend a mode of learning for the second quarter of the year before the end of October.
Gist released a letter to Tulsa parents that read, in part:
Every person on the Tulsa Public Schools team would prefer to bring our students, teachers, and team members back together in-person. However, given our current rates of COVID-19 infection, to do so would risk the health and safety of our students, their families, our team, and our city. I want you to know that we took a number of considerations into account, including the following:
- Current data trends from the Tulsa Health Department show an increase in COVID-19 infections over the last 14 days;
- Based on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s COVID Alert guidance for schools, Tulsa’s seven-day rolling average of 173.7 puts Tulsa at the highest alert level, Orange 2; and
- The Oklahoma Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and the Oklahoma Association of Family Physicians have indicated that they “cannot support a statewide return to in-person school,” citing counties with “growing numbers of positive cases or consistently high positive test rates indicating that community spread is uncontrolled and testing is not yet sufficiently reaching all infected people.”
Additionally, data from the National Academy of Sciences show that people who are Black, Latinx, Native American/Indigenous, or economically disadvantaged show disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection. At Tulsa Public Schools, 74% of our students are Black, Latinx, or Native American/Indigenous, and 83% are economically disadvantaged. We simply cannot compound the challenges that these communities already face by creating conditions for COVID-19 exposure.
Of the Board’s decision, Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart said: “We are pleased of the challenging decision our public school leaders made today toward lessening the spread of COVID-19 in the City of Tulsa.
“We understand parents and students want to be back in a more social setting. We know that kids learn better with face to face instruction from their teachers. We want to return to that as soon as circumstances allow, but we want to exercise an abundance of caution. We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers, and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. At this time, with the cases where they are at, it is our recommendation that schools follow this virtual model.”
Visit www.tulsaschools.org/2021distance for the full text of Gist’s letter. The district will continue to share information and updates about the 2020-2021 school year at www.tulsaschools.org/back2school.