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Why some parents are choosing to leave Tulsa Public Schools

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Posted at 9:50 PM, Jan 19, 2021

TULSA, Okla. — As Tulsa Public Schools continue in distance learning through spring break, some parents are making the difficult decision to leave the district.

Each day, Sarah Begley and her 10-year-old son sit at the kitchen table doing school work. But, as a TPS parent still in distance learning, it’s one she wishes were different.

“It’s so frustrating as TPS parents that these other districts, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Owasso, they figured it out," Begley said. "So why can’t we figure it out?”

After months of uncertainty, TPS’ decision is leading her to look for a new school for her son.

This is what Makalie Burton did with her three children just before winter break. She moved them from TPS to Epic Charter Schools. She thinks Epic has a better handle on virtual learning and said she’s gone from communicating with nearly 20 teachers to just two.

“I do think there’s been an attitude adjustment," Burton said. "We’re getting in the groove of it.”

Tulsa Public Schools said it lost about 3,000 students from last school year to this school year. But the district said that number is primarily due to under-enrollment in pre-K and kindergarten.

Both moms have many reasons to want to leave TPS. But especially their children who are struggling without face-to-face learning.

“My very bright, straight-A student," Burton said. "When we left TPS, she had one A."

“He’s always been a straight-A student up until this year," Begley said. "When we started doing the distance learning, I’ve noticed that his grades are struggling.”

While their children are struggling, both working parents are too.

“It was just as frustrating to not be able to be there to supervise because I had to go to work as it was when we would work on it later," Burton said. "And maybe not understand the Spanish or, oh my goodness, not understand pre-algebra.”

“When you’re working from home like I’m blessed to be able to do, that takes 100 percent," Begley said. "Then you’re trying to be mom, that takes 100 percent. Now, you’re trying to be a teacher and that really needs 110 percent. So, as a parent, we have to make those choices of what gets what percentage of us.”

Begley is hoping to move her son to either a private school or Epic soon. For Burton, she’s not sure what the future holds beyond this school year, but knows she’s doing what’s best for her family.

“I don’t know if Epic is going to be our long-term plan," Burton said. "It’s what we’re doing now. Because what we were doing wasn’t working.”

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