The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday to keep students in middle school, junior high and high school in distance learning until January.
The motion passed with a vote of 6-1 and students at those grade levels will stay in distance learning for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year and will return to in-person classes on January 4.
Last week, the board voted to send students in Pre-K through 5th grade back to in-person learning in a phased schedule.
Most board members believed it's too risky to send kids back to school after looking at recent data from the Tulsa Health Department. The School Board said they wanted to wait until January to send the older students back because they wanted to give the district more time to prepare.
"I know in my gut it doesn't feel right to send the big kids back with their teachers," TPS Board member Shawna Keller said.
Dr. Bruce Dart from the Tulsa Health Department spoke to the board last week and said they're seeing a higher number of cases among middle and high school students at other schools. Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said they loosely monitor numbers at neighboring schools in the county and also keep track of the number of rapid tests available to the district.
Tulsa Public Schools had 11 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on Friday. They said 25 adults had close contact exposures and 13 students are in quarantine. The district also said if 10% or more people test positive or need to quarantine that will trigger a possible discussion about shutting down that building.
"That would trigger a discussion for us to examine everything else but to consider taking action because we are reaching a point where the probability of infection would accelerate significantly faster.," Jorge Robles, Tulsa Public Schools, said.
As information continues to change, Dr. Gist made it clear that the district can move back to distance learning at any time.
"We have the ability to revisit these decisions and if and when conditions change, or new information comes to light. We are not locked in," Dr. Gist said.
The district said when they do return, they will also follow the four-day school week, leaving Wednesdays for distance learning.