JENKS, Okla. — Two Jenks Public School teachers resigned just days after the district announced plans to return to in person classes.
Jenks Public Schools spokesperson Rob Loeber said the two teachers chose to resign following a JPS letter to families on Wednesday that announced plans to move distance learning students to at-school instruction starting on Thursday, Sept. 10.
JPS officials initially discussed returning to in-person learning once COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County fell to the "yellow" zone for confirmed cases. The latest color-coded maps released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health show Tulsa County in the "orange" zone at 18.48 cases per 100,000 people.
The two Jenks teachers aren't the only Tulsa area teachers to quit due to coronavirus concerns.
“We signed up to make a difference in their lives we did not sign up to die for it," Shawna Mott-Wright, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association president said when discussing Tulsa Public Schools teachers choices to leave.
Mott-Wright told 2 Works for You about 30 TPS teachers are debating leaving due to issues with in-person instruction. She said about half of them already chose to go.
“We’ve had several resignations, early retirements, people going on leave," Mott-Wright said. “Teachers working conditions are students learning conditions and you can’t escape that.”
Mott-Wright told 2 Works for You that TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist told her "exceptions can be made off of need” for teachers, but Mott-Wright said some teachers are required to teach in-person half the time.
In response, Tulsa Public Schools spokesperson Lauren Partain told 2 Works for You, "We’ve encouraged school leaders to work with their teachers and to be flexible where possible. Some Special Education teachers for certain tiers of students are in person to support our students."
"Deliberately sending people into something so unknown when all of the information from the experts continues to evolve and change is not okay," Mott-Wright said.
In a follow-up letter to parents Thursday evening, Jenks Public Schools officials said, "Although the yellow level was always a part of the conversation, the process also included reviewing recommendations, guidance, and data, in addition to lessons learned from other public and private schools as they have transitioned to in-person learning. This part of the plan should have been stressed more often and stated more clearly. For that, we sincerely apologize."
JPS officials said masks will be required for all staff and students grades 3-12.
Loeber told 2 Works for You the district will work to accommodate any member of its staff with medical conditions or health concerns.
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