Photo caption: Barnsdall High School. Courtesy Photo/Barnsdall High School Facebook page
Local districts’ back to school plans continue to shift, with officials at Barnsdall and Tulsa approving changes on Aug. 3.
Barnsdall Public Schools has pushed back the start of school by one week to Aug. 17. Rather than extend the 2020-2021 calendar by one week, the district will instead use eight Fridays as distance learning days. Student participation in distance learning days is mandatory with attendance measured via completion of assignments.
At least for now, students will not be required to wear masks, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. In the district’s amended “Return to Learn,” officials noted that could change if public health conditions deteriorate further. The district will be purchasing a neck gaiter for each student.
In an attempt to enable social distancing in the hallways and minimize the number of frequent touchpoints that need regular sanitizing, elementary school students will not be using lockers this coming year.
High school students will still be allowed to leave campus for lunch. However, they will be required to sanitize their hands upon their return.
Meanwhile, after two hours of questions and deliberations, Tulsa Public Schools’ board of education voted 6-1 to start the year via distance learning for at least the first nine weeks.
The plan does include exceptions for a limited number of special education students to receive in-person instruction. Additionally, the district is working with the United Way and other area entities to help parents secure child care.
“I’m not going to ask any teacher, support staff or parent to put themselves in an at-risk situation that I would not put myself in personally,” board member Suzanne Schreiber said.
Tulsa’s school year starts on Aug. 31. With pediatric cases accounting for about 11 percent of Tulsa County’s COVID-19 cases, district officials said they will make a decision in late September or early October about whether the second quarter will also be via distance learning, all in-person or a hybrid model.
“We know … and it is something that we don’t want to lose sight of, that this disease affects people of color significantly,” said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist. “I would say in Oklahoma specifically, that this has had a big impact on Native Americans.”
As of Aug. 4, Indigenous people make up almost 9 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. In Tulsa County alone, Indigenous people account for 5 percent of its COVID-19 fatalities.