As all Tulsa Public Schools students adjust back to distance learning this week, most students in special education programs are doing it for the first time.
Kindergarten and Pre-K students went back to in person learning November 9 and first, second and third graders went back the following week. All students were out of school for Thanksgiving break and returned November 30th.
Kindergartner Savannah Pockrus was back in the classroom at Eisenhower International School for just two weeks before heading back home for distance learning with her siblings. They're all in the French immersion program.
"The two weeks that my kindergartner got, I just saw her blossom and her language immersion skills were so much better, leaps and bounds better than they were just doing distance learning,” Savannah's mother, Sydnee Pockrus, said.
Sydnee said that time back in school was productive for all of her kids. Her second and third graders had a little more than a week in the classroom. While they are disappointed to go back to distance learning, Sydnee said her kids are resilient.
"My son said, 'Mom, it's only two and a half weeks and then we come back January 4th.' I told him not to hold his breath that we get to go back January 4th, but we'll see,” she said.
For some in special education programs, Thursday will mark their first day learning as a class from home. Edison Preparatory School Deaf Education Teacher Erin Shepherd said for her students, district-wide distance learning on Wednesdays have always served as a day to catch up on their work from home, without meeting as a class. Shepherd expects the transition to do distance learning on other days of the week to be "seamless."
"Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, just like we did in person, but doing it on Zoom,” Shepherd said.
She said the switch to full-time distance learning won't come without challenges.
"Deaf and hard of hearing students typically do not have other deaf and hard of hearing peers with them in the home. Most of our parents do not use American Sign Language, so there's a bit of barrier there,” Shepherd said.
Tulsa Public Schools noted some students in special education programs have been in distance learning all year.
TPS said going forward in the pandemic, it will prioritize resuming in-person learning for students in the special education programs as conditions improve.