The Tulsa Board of Education voted this morning to extend distance learning for TPS students through March 22nd.
The recommendation came after a request from Dr. Jeanette Marshall to postpone resuming in-person schooling until the start of next school year, citing serious concerns for the health and safety of students and teachers across the district.
Board member Keller agreed with delaying in-person learning, but emphasized a new date after Spring Break, optimistic that vaccine distribution will make in-person learning safer.
The board’s decision to continue distance learning comes at the recommendation of Dr. Bruce Dart, the head of the Tulsa Health Department.
Board President Stacey Wooley, who got emotional during the discussion of the decision to extend distance learning, stated, “this decision is hard on all of us”.
The Board has built-in regular time to track rates of COVID-19 community spread and will meet ahead of March 22nd to make a final determination of the safety of returning to school.
Earlier this week, Governor Kevin Stitt directly addressed Tulsa Public Schools’ continuation of distance learning, pressuring them to return to in-person learning. The Governor’s office recently cited data from an American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) study to justify resuming in-person learning amid rapid community spread and even allow students who had been exposed to the virus to remain in regular classes. The AAP pushed back on the Governor’s use of the study, stating that his stance “does not adhere” to the group’s recommendations and misrepresent their findings.
District 5 Board member Croissant, who has been a vocal critic of Governor Stitt, called out the Governor for deciding to “cherry-pick his own data” to fit a political agenda. Croissant said that Stitt “either knew [his comments were misleading] and lied to the people of Oklahoma” or the Governor was engaging in a “political ploy” to distract from the devastating infection and death rates across the state.
Suzanne Schreiber, who represents District 7, stated that “If the governor wants to see kids back in school safely”, then he should immediately issue a statewide mask mandate along with other mitigation efforts.
Schrieber went on to address the effect the pandemic is having on students beyond the loss of in-person education, stating “this is extremely serious, the mental health impact of all of this.”
She voiced her support of pushing the date to resume in-person learning to March 22nd because she could not hear the recommendations from Dr. Dart and the stories of loss and suffering from TPS employees and “just ignore them”.
“This is hard on all of us,” she said.
The board also voted to address the significant volume of students with failing grades by extending the current semester until Friday, February 5th. This measure, supported unanimously, was proposed by district leaders to ensure students had the time to complete missing assignments and teachers had the opportunity and resources necessary to connect with parents and provide support.