Oklahoma City and Tulsa Public Schools release re-opening plans

As families and educators continue to figure out what school in the time of COVID looks like, Oklahoma’s two largest public school districts at least have their calendars set.

On June 29, the boards of education for both Oklahoma City Public Schools and Tulsa Public Schools approved updated calendars for the 2020-2021 school year.

According to data published by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, OKCPS had 42,513 students during the previous school year, including 6,616 enrolled at a district-sponsored charter school. TPS had 38,509 students, including 2,834 at a district-sponsored charter school. Combined, the two districts serve more than 5,000 Indigenous students.

Originally scheduled to start its fall 2020 semester on Aug. 10, the OKCPS board of education voted at a July 21 special meeting to delay the beginning of classes until Aug. 31 due to continued community spread and rising case counts in Oklahoma County.

OKCPS originally planned to start classes in person. However, along with pushing back the start of classes to late August, the OKCPS school board also voted to have all classes be conducted virtually for at least the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year due to the rate of community spread within Oklahoma County. As of the time of the school board meeting, there were 1,189 known active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, Tulsa Public Schools has also pushed back the start of fall classes to Aug. 31 in order to provide teachers with additional professional development days to prepare for distance learning.

District officials will not decide to what extent TPS classes will be conducted remotely until the Aug. 3 board of education meeting. However, at least to start the year, in person classes will not be in session on Wednesdays. Instead, that day will be used for either small group remediation efforts or distance learning, depending on students’ needs. Wednesdays will also be used to deep clean and sanitize schools.  

Depending upon the advice of public health officials, the district may be splitting in-person students into two groups to facilitate social distancing in classrooms. If that route is pursued, half of the students would attend in person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and do distance learning the rest of the week. The other half would do distance learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with in person classes on Thursdays and Fridays.

“We will teach and learn together in person as much as possible next year based on current guidance from the Tulsa Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said. “While we will be prepared and hope to have our students back in person all year, we may need to shift to distance learning or to a mix of in-person and distance learning. Our focus is on keeping students and teachers safe, which means planning for the flexibility we may need given continued rates of COVID-19 infection in our city.”

TPS is also offering an online-only option for all grades. Students who go that route will remain enrolled in their brick and mortar school but will not come to campus. Families who choose this route will have the option to return to in-person learning at the semester break if their preferences change. Enrollment for the online-only option is open through Aug. 10.