At-risk, special-needs students set to return to school on Aug. 17

Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified School District is providing more clarity on which students may return to campus next week.

Twenty-six schools will specifically welcome back students with special needs. However, all 86 schools in the district must be prepared to open on Aug. 17, as TUSD prioritizes at-risk students.

“The Arizona Department of Education has not come out and given us a hard and fast definition of ‘at-risk’,” said TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

So, the district came up with its own definition.

“Who are the students in our system that if we removed the actual brick and mortar aspect of school, their barrier would be so great, their education would just stop?” Trujillo asked.

Trujillo says these students fit into the following categories:

  • Those who are high needs; requiring around-the-clock, one-on-one care
  • Those who are homeless; relying on the district for food, showers, internet and technology
  • Refugees; who often face language barriers
  • Children in foster care; as mandated by the state

A local foster care service told KOLD News 13 that teachers are often the first ones who notice and report abuse.

“When you add these four groups up, it’s just close to 2,000 students,” Trujillo said.

However, the Governor’s “Open for Learning” guidelines mandates students who simply need a place to go during the day must be offered on-site learning.

“[The] Arizona Department of Education doesn’t like it, superintendents don’t like it,” said Dustin Williams, the superintendent of Pima County Schools. “But unfortunately, it’s a reality.”

Free childcare will be provided at several TUSD locations. Officials say there will be a 1 to 12 supervisor-to-student ratio. Students will be spaced at least six feet apart and will be required to wear face coverings. Each site will have an isolation room for students showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“Most of our teachers are working from home. Some have asked to come back and that’s fine,” said Dr. Trujillo. “[But] we will have adult supervision. These will be primarily classified employees that have volunteered to do this. If we run short on volunteers, we have other classified employees that need the work. For example, bus drivers.”

For more information about on-site learning and how to sign up, click HERE.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.