TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - All eyes have been on Pima County’s largest school district as it works to bring back staff and students safely.
Tuesday night, Sept. 22, the Tucson Unified School District board approved transitioning into a hybrid learning model. But what will it look like? And when will it happen?
“It doesn’t quench the fear that’s out there,” said board member, Kristel Foster, during the meeting.
“It’s a tough situation,” said board member, Leila Counts.
“If we put this off, we’re not – I don’t think – really serving the community,” said board member, Bruce Burke.
It wasn’t as easy as a quick vote; not when the board is tasked with making a decision of such significance to the community.
“Can we wait until January [to bring students back]?” asked board member, Adelita Grijalva during the meeting. “If I could not as a parent put my child into school, than I couldn’t vote for it.”
After several hours of discussion, the board decided to move forward the proposed hybrid learning model in a 3-2 vote.
“So, we discussed last meeting that October 19th [start] date,” said Grijalva on Wednesday. “That date is still out there, that would still be a ‘goal date’.”
The idea is to split each class into two groups. Group 'A' would attend school in person on Monday’s and Thursday’s and group 'B' would attend on Tuesday’s and Friday’s. Wednesday’s would be designated for “cleaning.” So, students would still learn from home three days a week except for those considered “high-risk”; those students have been learning from school five days a week.
“The initial reaction was sort of ‘Woah, what do you mean? You’re insane! What do you mean I’m going to have two different groups?’” said Margaret Chaney, the President of the Teacher Education Association. “But it’s a mixed bag [of reactions]. Some teachers are just like their kids; they want to get back to class and they want things to be as normal as possible.”
Chaney says teachers still have a lot of questions. Will they have cameras in their classrooms for their online students? Or, will they have to bounce between in-person and online pupils? Will two teachers be assigned to one class?
“That would require more staff and in order to have more staff, you have to have more funding,” she said. “Vote yes on Prop 208! That would really help a lot of the issues we have when it comes to funding when there is an emergency like this and decisions can’t be made because of funding.”
TUSD will be surveying teachers and parents over the next two weeks and will solidify a hybrid learning plan by Oct. 6.
“We are suggesting bringing back 44,000 students at some point during the week,” said Grijalva. “So, some of those ideas still need to be ironed out.”
Even after TUSD passes a final plan, the Pima County Health Department will need to give the green light. According to the current data, officials say we are just not there yet.