JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some Tulsa Welding School students are concerned that the school continues to hold classes on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One man told News4Jax his relative tested positive for COVID-19 now he is self-isolating until he gets his test results back.
On Friday afternoon, the CEO of the school said the classes require hands-on skills that can’t be taught online so coming to class is necessary.
The school has begun offering a new Leave of Absence policy where a student may leave the school for 60 days with no impact to their financial or school progress if they have been affected by, have genuine concerns about contracting or have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are committed to helping students and families get through this period safely. Our on-campus efforts still include additional disinfecting measures and adjusted schedules to limit social interaction, but we understand the continued concern at this time,” a statement posted on the school’s website reads.
Before the new policy was announced, students shared their concerns about the school being open with News4Jax.
“I have a newborn daughter, who has no immune system and I’ve already told them about this and they don’t care," a student said Friday.
Students like Todd Knepton fear they could be exposed, or expose others, to the deadly virus. Knepton said his nephew recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“If I went to school today I could have infected the whole program, possibly,” he said Friday. “At this point, we have to be paranoid because we don’t know who is touching what.”
Knepton is a student through the VA program. If he doesn’t go to class, he loses benefits and credit, but the new policy is a relief.
Kelly said hands-on skills are required for completing the classes.
“We said to them look, we can’t give you a grade for a class that requires a skill if you can’t produce the skill," Kelly said.
Kelly said it’s important for the school to allow students to accomplish their trade.
“There are a number of people that are going to be in dire straits if they don’t finish their studies if they don’t get out and work, and these are jobs that they’re hopefully going to find work in because they’re high-demand fields,” Kelly said.
Knepton said he feels it’s not safe risking his health to go to school and the school should be shut down temporarily.
Students also said there have been up to 20 people in classrooms and they are too close together.
Before the new leave of absence policy was implemented, Kelly said the capacity rule doesn’t apply to the school, according to Jacksonville Mayor Curry, but the students have to be six feet apart. The school is working to monitor that. The school said it is also following CDC guidelines by sanitizing the school every hour.