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Tulsa Public Schools reinstating mask policy; other districts announce instructional shifts


Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist is pictured during a school board meeting last year.

With area COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, several area school districts announced additional mitigation efforts Tuesday, as Tulsa Public Schools reinstated its mask policy and other area districts announced shifts in instructional methods.

In an email to parents Tuesday afternoon, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist announced that masks are once again expected for students and adults in all district buildings starting Wednesday.

As of the close of business Tuesday, a timeline was not available for when the policy would be revisited.

In order to be in compliance with a temporary injunction from the Oklahoma County District Court, TPS’s mask requirement includes opt-out provisions for medical reasons or based on a student’s educational, social or emotional needs.

According to the case counts published by the district on Friday, TPS had 485 reported cases of COVID-19 among its students and staff, a one-week increase of 344 cases.

The district amended its masks policy on Jan. 3 to optional but recommended for students and staff in middle schools, junior high schools and combined middle and high schools. They were made optional at stand-alone high schools and district offices in November.

Meanwhile, after warning parents on Friday about the possibility of a closure or change on short notice due to rising case counts, Skiatook Public Schools announced Tuesday that all of its campuses will be closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and will not offer virtual instruction on those days.

In the closure letter, Skiatook Superintendent Rick Thomas said the district’s high rate of absences among staff and students was due not only to COVID-19 but to other illnesses, as well.

“We realize that this causes hardship on families but at this time, it is something that cannot be helped,” Thomas wrote. “We hope that by taking the next three days off, it will allow not only teachers and staff members to get well, but will allow our students time to recover from the different types of sickness going around.”

Officials with Liberty and Sperry public schools announced Tuesday that both of their districts will be in distance learning through Friday due to high absence rates among staff and students.

Owasso Public Schools’ Ator and Smith elementary schools will be in distance learning for the rest of the week as well.

After canceling classes districtwide for Tuesday, Catoosa Public Schools announced that its high school will be in distance learning on Wednesday and Thursday except for students receiving Tier 3 or 4 Exceptional Student Support services. In-person instruction will continue for those pupils.

Catoosa operates on a four-day calendar and does not have classes on Fridays.

As of the close of business Tuesday, only two TPS campuses were slated to be completely in distance learning on Wednesday: Memorial Middle School and McLain High School. Grab-and-go meal service will be available outside each of those schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Four more TPS sites have individual classrooms or grades starting the school week in distance learning. Eisenhower International School and Greenwood Leadership Academy each have individual classrooms making the shift, along with all kindergartners at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School and third and fifth grades at John Hope Franklin Elementary School.

Additionally, College Bound Academy, a TPS-authorized charter school in east Tulsa, announced Tuesday that it will be in distance learning for the rest of the week.

As previously announced, all of Union’s campuses will remain in distance learning on Wednesday. However, Union officials announced plans Tuesday evening to resume in-person instruction on Thursday for nine schools: Cedar Ridge, Roy Clark, McAuliffe and Peters elementary schools; Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center; Union Eighth Grade Center; Union Freshman Academy; Union High School and Union Alternative School.

Due to a shortage of bus drivers, Union will not be able to provide transportation for students in grades 10-12 on Thursday or Friday.

Other area schools already in distance learning for the rest of the week include Claremore’s Will Rogers Junior High School, KIPP Tulsa’s University Prep High School, Sapulpa’s Bartlett Academy and all of Broken Arrow, Haskell and Muskogee campuses.

Schools that previously announced plans to be in distance learning for Wednesday include Bixby Public Schools’ East Elementary, West Elementary and Central Intermediate; Jenks Public Schools’ East and Northwest elementary schools, and all Bartlesville, Collinsville and Glenpool campuses.

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