Tucson’s largest school district will allow students to return to in-person classes starting Nov. 12.
Tucson Unified School District’s governing board voted to return to school in a hybrid model in a 3-2 vote Tuesday night.
Board members Kristel Foster, Bruce Burke and Leila Counts voted to approve the reopening date,and members Adelita Grijalva and Rachael Sedgwick opposed.
The board voted to approve the hybrid learning model on Oct. 6 but delayed voting on when to implement it until Tuesday's special meeting.
Pima County Public Health Director Theresa Cullen discussed the county health department’s three specific guidelines for opening in a hybrid model: a two-week decline in COVID-19 cases, two weeks of percent positivity below 7% and hospital visits for COVID-19 illness below 10%. As of Oct. 22, Pima County had met all three benchmarks.
“We believe that as a county, it is okay for school districts to go to a hybrid learning model based on the current statistics,” Cullen said.
She noted the health department recommends the district take strict mitigation tactics including increased sanitation, social distancing and universal mask-wearing, as well as reporting COVID-19 cases to the health department and complying with isolation and quarantine guidelines.
The governing board unanimously approved a second motion to authorize “the Superintendent to initiate school closures…if such closures are recommended by the Pima County Health Department and deemed necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County.”
TUSD’s hybrid model
The TUSD board approved a new hybrid model for returning to school in-person that involves separating students into hybrid and online-only groups.
Four days a week, in-person students learn at their physical school sites for the first half of the day and work remotely from home the rest of the day. On Wednesdays, every student attends class remotely.
Remote students work asynchronously in the mornings and attend online teacher-led instruction in the afternoon. While teachers are instructing remote students the second half of the day, students in the hybrid system work asynchronously.
Asynchronous work involves working on class projects and assignments, social-emotional learning lessons with counselors, specialized services and working on digital platforms, according to a presentation from TUSD.
TUSD also came up with a contingency plan if the percentage of students who wish to attend classes in-person is at an unsafe level. This level, which the district refers to as a “threshold,” depends on each campus, but TUSD says most are between 45-60% of students on campus.
If a threshold becomes too high, the school will have the option of splitting their in-person students into two cohorts to attend classes on different days. Cohort A would attend on Mondays and Thursdays while cohort B would attend on Tuesdays and Fridays.