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Tulsa Public Schools returns pre-K through 3rd graders back to distance learning

Tulsa Public Schools
Posted at 1:24 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 13:03:58-05

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Public Schools is returning all pre-K through 3rd grade students to distance learning starting Dec. 2.

In a letter sent to families, Dr. Deborah Gist said the decision came after near daily contact with the Tulsa Health Department and area medical professionals. This is in effect until the last day before winter break -- December 18th.

I have made the difficult decision to shift all of our students in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade back to distance learning through the last day of classes before winter break, Friday, Dec. 18. This shift will include students in our special education programs.
Dr. Deborah Gist

The news was upsetting to some TPS parents who want their children to be in school.

“It’s extremely frustrating when you have restaurants and bars and shopping centers and concerts and movies and everything open, but you can’t go to school," said Annie Bordwine, a TPS Parent.

Bordwine said she noticed a difference in her third-grade son when he was back in school after learning from home since March.

“I’ve had a lot of temper tantrums, a lot of arguing, a lot of ‘I want to see my friends,'" she said. "And it was a totally different little boy when he got to go back to school. He was happy.”

Dr. Gist said she knew this day would come, but not quite so soon. She said it was a difficult decision to make.

"At this moment, I am just sad," Dr. Gist said. "And at any moment I’m sure I’ll go back to being angry again.”

Dr. Gist said the decision came after the Tulsa Health Department told her it was "extremely risky" to have students back in school.

“I think the message that everyone should get from this is if the recommendation we are receiving is that even school, which is relatively and extraordinarily safe place to be, if even school is not recommended to be in person, then that should tell people what kinds of behaviors they need to be seeing in the rest of their lives," Dr. Gist said.

She is urging other leaders and the community to step up and do their part in minimizing the spread so students can return to school.

“We can do better," Gist said. "We can do better than this. We have to do better than this. I know our children need to be in school in-person. And I want them to be there in-person just as much or more than anyone else in Tulsa."

As of right now, all TPS students are going back to in-person learning on Jan. 4. However, Dr. Gist said that’s concerning to her and the district and board will be discussing it in board meetings before winter break.

TPS officials provided the following information about students returning back to distance learning:

What does this mean for students in pre-kindergarten - 3rd grade?

  • Students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, second, and third grade will move to distance learning effective Wednesday, Dec. 2.
  • Students will have one more day of in-person classes on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
  • Students will stay in distance learning through the last day of classes before winter break, which is Friday, Dec. 18.

What does this mean for students in 4th - 6th grades?

  • Students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades will continue in distance learning through the last day of classes before winter break, which is Friday, Dec. 18.

What does this mean for students in middle, junior high, and high school?

  • Students in middle, junior high, and high school will continue in distance learning through the last day of classes before winter break, which is Friday, Dec. 18.
  • Students will continue to have access to Care and Connect hours at their schools; services will continue to be available by appointment only.
  • Student athletes will continue to participate in winter sports following the safety protocols we have in place.

What does this mean for students receiving exceptional student support services?

  • This shift to distance learning includes all of our students in level 3 and 4 special education programs and our deaf education programs.
  • We will prioritize resuming in-person learning for our exceptional students in these programs inclusive of deaf education as conditions improve.
  • Our Exceptional Student Support Services team will contact the families of students in these programs to share more information about support services in a distance model.

TPS will continue to provide breakfast, lunch, and supper meals for all Tulsa children ages 18 and under. They'll serve “grab-and-go” meals at all of our school sites on weekdays from 10:30am to 12:30pm. Our Mobile Meals bus stop services will continue, and we will post updated routes on our website later this week.

Visit for more information about student meal service.

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