TCS Superintendent Pitches Dates for Staggered Opening of Schools
Superintendent Mike Daria proposed tentative dates to The Tuscaloosa City School Board Tuesday to return the system's students to classrooms in a staggered in-person and virtual learning model to begin Sept. 21 with an eye to return to full-time in-person instruction on Oct. 12.
The board is expected to vote on the proposal next week, and if approved, TCS will move to a staggered, four-day learning week in which each student is physically in a classroom two days a week. For the other two days of the week, students will continue virtual learning. The schedule will also allow one day of the week for the schools to be closed and deep cleaned by janitors.
"I think that it's important that we look at the staggered model to slowly phase students back onto campus, and the recommendation that you have in front of you will accomplish that," Daria said.
In last week's board meeting, Daria said that the goal of this process was to return all students to in-class learning before the end of the exclusively virtual nine-week plan adopted back in July. Since that time, board members met with the Alabama Department of Public Health and other health officials to begin to piece together a plan to reopen schools.
A split group of parents and board members spoke Tuesday to voice support of the plan or to oppose it as COVID-19 continues to spread through the area, state and nation.
"I must say, I want our kids in school just like everybody else," board member Rev. Matthew Wilson said. "But I am concerned about the health and wellness of everyone."
Rick Webb, the husband of a Tuscaloosa City School employee, questioned the board's decision to close down schools in March when there were no confirmed coronavirus cases in the county, but are now willing to reopen "when Tuscaloosa is possibly the epicenter of the virus outbreak in this state."
"I think this push is ultimately about serving a political minority interest of higher-income earners, concentrated mostly within a single cluster of schools," Webb said.
Rachel Culmer, a mother of a fourth-grade student at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School, questioned why students were not allowed to go back to school but children were allowed to participate in fall sports such as football.
"The city has some parks that are closed which means that it is not safe to go to parks but it is safe to go to athletic events," Culmer said. "The city has allowed bars to reopen, with some restrictions, which means that it is safe for people to go to a bar but it is not safe to attend school."
The board will look to vote on the proposal in the next board meeting on Sept. 15. Daria said if his proposal fails and no additional action is taken, classes will resume in-person for the second nine weeks without a period of staggered learning.
Watch the entire presentation to the school board below, and stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more updates from the system as they become available.