“There is a very serious funding issue upon us,” Castaneda said. “Even before COVID, districts were coming to the state level and saying, ‘We do not have enough funds to operate,’ and now we are in a situation that is far more emergent and grave.”

Tulsa will start the first nine weeks of school in distance learning. Students could enroll in either a virtual curriculum or distance learning classes, which allow for the possibility to return to school in person later in the year.

The district had to hire three dozen more teachers and buy thousands of devices to support its virtual academy, Castaneda said. Federal aid and bond funds covered costs this summer, but they will run out next year.

Schools could experience a “funding crisis” in 2021 if they don’t receive extra funds.

“There is no additional revenue for those additional teachers, and there is no way to scoop those teachers out of our existing schools because they don’t have the staff there either,” Castaneda said. “You can be efficient in one model. It is very difficult to be equally efficient in both.”

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