The Tuscaloosa City Schools will return to in-person instruction starting October 19, for all students who did not choose the full year virtual option. The goal of the Board of Education has been to return to daily instruction in a safe manner. Yesterday, the system confirmed a positive COVID-19 diagnosis for superintendent, Mike Daria, who is "feeling fine" and isolating at home.
The journey to the return has included opinion-gathering from many stakeholders such as local medical experts. Educators have been preparing for this moment for weeks. Teacher voice is an important part of the process for the system, just as the feedback from families has been crucial. In hearing the concerns from TCS educators, there is strong acknowledgment of the strain this places on employees to manage the effective teaching of both in-person and virtual students.
Concerns over the impact of a five-day return will have for teachers cannot be ignored, said Mike Daria, superintendent. That's why the system will instead use a four-day week in person, in which students will devote Fridays for virtual learning asynchronously, starting October 23.Meanwhile, schools will use the time to allow for deeper cleaning of buildings to protect the safety of students and staff. This will also create the opportunity for teachers to plan and collaborate for effective teaching practices as well as connect with families on an as-needed basis. Daria says this decision will be revisited for the second semester.
"The demand this is placing on our educators is enormous," he said. "We are doing this to allow time for their planning and preparation. We worry that the demands on them will not be sustainable as they work to balance in-person teaching, virtual, and hybrid. This day is for them to work on planning so they can be sure to provide high-quality instruction when they are with your children."
This move was supported by not only TCS principals, but also the Board of Education which provided the superintendent the authority to set the educational model.
“The Board promised to be flexible during COVID, look out for the safety of all and listen to the needs of our educators. By moving to a four-day school week we feel that we have checked each of those boxes,” said Eric Wilson, Board chair.
Daria noted the news of this change is not ideal, but was a necessary one to make.
"While I recognize a shift at this date does pose an inconvenience to families, we must balance the well-being of our staff as we deliver instruction during a pandemic," Daria said.