TULSA, Okla. — All grades at Tulsa Public Schools returned to class.
Thursday marked the final phase of students returning to in-person learning. 2 Works for You talked to a TPS teacher and parent about their experiences returning to the classroom.
Penny Davis is a band director at Webster Middle School. She's one of hundreds of TPS teachers who returned to the classroom this week.
“We left for spring break and we never came back to school until now,” Davis said.
For the past 11 months, she's been teaching her students virtually.
“I’d find myself saying things like, you know, 'Can you hold your saxophone closer to the camera,'” she said.
A task she said was not easy at all.
“If you can imagine trying to teach a student how to play the saxophone on a Zoom meeting, it is very challenging,” Davis said.
The district returned most of its students to in person learning after rolling out a detailed COVID-19 safety plan and implementing an approach that brought different grade levels back over several days.
“When I got to school yesterday and saw kids actually in person, the joy I experienced was more than I actually anticipated,” Davis said.
Although she's grateful to resume in person instruction, she said classes are not quite what they used to be like.
“It’s different for me because I would normally walk up to a student to correct something and I have to find myself saying, 'Okay, no, pick up a trumpet and make an example that way instead of getting up in that student’s space,'" Davis said.
She said her small classes averaged 25 students, but since in-person learning resumed her classes now have about 16 students.
“Our smaller classes, we’re holding those classes here in the band room with social distancing and our larger classes we’re holding in the auditorium,” she said.
Davis said the district did a very thorough job implementing COVID-19 mitigation practices and is grateful for their thoughtful approach.
“They knew that teachers and students were struggling with trying to maintain distance learning, but also wanted to make sure that things were done safely and well and I appreciate that,” Davis said.
Christi Tom is a TPS mother and she agrees. Tom's first grader goes to Zarrow Elementary, and she returned to in person learning Thursday.
She said her daughter learns better one-on-one, and as a parent, she feels very comfortable with the school district's COVID-19 mitigation plan.
Tom said distance learning came with various challenges, which is why she's glad TPS in-person classes have resumed.
She said the feeling is mutual among parents who have to go to work.
“The ones that work at home are like ecstatic because it is really hard to work from home and help your child do school work. I mean that’s three jobs,” Christi Tom said.
She said many things look different. For example, students don't really do extracurricular activities as they once did.
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