TUSD tentatively plans to bring staff back, hybrid learning could start in October

TUSD back to school

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County’s largest school district is working towards a phased return to in-person classes.

Wednesday night, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board unanimously passed a proposal. The plan, though, is entirely contingent on the COVID-19 trajectory and guidance from the Pima County Health Department.

“There is some good news,” said Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo during the meeting.

The good news is in the numbers.

“Tucson has really done a dynamite job,” said Nikki Stefan, the Director of School Health Services. “There’s decreased deaths, decreased hospitalizations for COVID-positive cases.”

Pima County currently meets all three benchmarks set by the State of Arizona for a hybrid learning model. However, the Pima County Health Department’s criteria is a bit more complex. Of the nine benchmarks set by the local health authority, the county still falls short on tracking and prevention.

“Of course, that will affect our schools because if we have a case of COVID-19, we need our contact tracers to be able to notify those families and work with those families to make sure they are staying home and are knowledgeable about how to take care of themselves and their families [so they don’t] transfer the disease,” Stefan said.

This area of ‘red’ has the district’s attention.

“We respect the Arizona Department of Health Service’s framework, but we have committed to supporting the recommendations of the Pima County Health Department,” Trujillo said.

Which is why, on behalf of TUSD, Trujillo brought forward a tentative plan that starts with bringing employees back to campus.

“For district office employees first, the week of September 21st,” said Trujillo.

This will be followed by support staff and non-certified workers coming back the week of September 28th. Trujillo says staff will return through a phased approach, which includes split schedules to allow for extra space per employee.

Teachers were not included in the tentative plan. The district is working on another proposal that’s set to be presented during the September 22nd school board meeting.

“The soonest that we would be changing work expectations for teachers in terms of working on campus would not be until probably the week of October 19th,” Trujillo said.

That means students would also not be able to return to campus until October 19th. Unlike the current online learning model, hybrid learning requires teachers to offer some resemblance of a classroom learning experience to students who return.

“That’s what we are going to be planning for in this next phase,” Trujillo said.

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