The Tuscaloosa County School System will reopen its campuses in person and expects 70 percent of its 18,000 students to opt to return to class that way, with the remaining 30 percent choosing some form of virtual learning.

In a conference call Tuesday morning, Dennis Duncan, TCSS's Director of Career and Technical Education, spoke on behalf of the county's new superintendent Keri Johnson. He said there are many factors that it difficult for TCSS to have a large portion of its student body to learn remotely.

Tuscaloosa County is very large geographically and spotted with rural areas. Many students lack a computer or tablet for at-home learning, and several are without reliable internet access. Keeping all this in mind, Duncan said the best option for the system and its students is to reopen on August 20th, and around 12,500 students will return to in-person classrooms.

The operating plan right now is for all students to attend classes Monday through Friday, but if positive cases of the coronavirus find their way into schools or other factors warrant it, one contingency will be for students to attend in-person classes on alternating schedules.

Duncan said students will be divided into an "A Group" and a "B Group," and if necessary, they will attend school on different days to give staff the time and ability to deep clean classrooms, hallways and more.

Some students will be asked to eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms, as maintaining social distancing in a cafeteria setting would likely prove impossible.

Duncan also said P.E. will have to change, as there will be no dressing out in locker rooms on campus.

“It’s just going to have to be a different type of school, but we’re gonna make it work," Duncan said.

The students whose families opt to keep them at home will still be expected to "attend" classes every day, and to complete assignments on the same schedule as their peers who are physically on campus.

“It’s going to be a real challenge, but we have already and we will continue to tackle it head-on and do the best we can under these circumstances," Duncan said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story said the school system will begin in-person instruction on an alternating schedule, with students divided into an "A Group" and a "B Group." That is a contingency plan that will only be implemented if necessary, and not how TCSS intends to begin the year. Townsquare Media regrets the error and is happy to set the record straight.

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