Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo told the TUSD Governing Board Tuesday night that he hoped to return to some form of in-class instruction on March 24.
Under Trujillo’s plan, preschool and elementary parents can choose between full-time remote or on-campus learning.
High school and middle school families can opt for either remote learning or a hybrid model with four half days of in-person learning with remote days on Wednesdays.
Parents will be able to select their choice through ParentVue, the school’s online parent portal.
Under a previous board vote, Trujillo was given the authority to decide when TUSD would return to in-class instruction. The district has previously set opening dates only to delay them and has been in remote-only instruction since March of last year.
Trujillo told board members he would flesh out his plan for instruction and COVID mitigation once parents select their educational preferences, which would provide a better sense of how many students would be back in the traditional classroom and how many would prefer to continue with remote learning.
Board Member Dr. Ravi Grivois-Shah is supportive of a return to in-person school sooner rather than later and even suggested an earlier start date of March 1 while staggering grade levels returning with the youngest grades going first.
“Every single conversation I have with parents, they tell me that their kid is struggling, and especially the youngest kids. You know, 100% of the parents I speak to tell me about their struggles with remote learning,” Grivois-Shah said.
Board Member Natalie Luna Rose also supported a staggered return to the classroom.
“It's going to be a year that we haven't had children in the classroom, and I'm just afraid the longer we go on, the harder it will be to perhaps maybe bring back some of the families that we have lost,” she said. “Having that option of being remote, I know that's asking a lot of our teachers, but maybe that would also help mitigate our fears.”
Expressing concerns that not enough of the TUSD staff has received a COVID-19 vaccine yet, Board Member Adelita Grijalva was more hesitant about a March 24 return date.
“Our children can still get COVID, they can still give it to each other and our kids won't be vaccinated,” Grijalva said. “So I want to make sure that we're also cognizant of the fact that we have some parents that are not going to want their children to return for a number of reasons.”
Board President Leila Counts supported the plan proposed by Trujillo as is.
“We need our schools open, and we need to do it in the safest way possible, and I think the proposal that administration has given us tonight allows us to do that with those target dates,” she said. “Everybody has the opportunity to get a vaccine, and we need to open up our schools again. I appreciate the work that's gone into this plan. I think it's doable, it's safe, and it's what's best for our kids. So I support it.”
Board Member Sadie Shaw expressed hesitation with a return to school and said vaccinating TUSD’s staff is not enough to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.
“Even if we're able to vaccinate all staff, the students won't be vaccinated, some other parents won't be vaccinated and a large portion of our Tucson community will not be vaccinated,” Shaw said. “As the largest school district, I think we really have to take the most care and how we approach the return.”
TUSD parent survey results
TUSD sent a survey to parents of students in preschool through third grade and grades nine through 12 on Jan. 26.
Parents were asked to rank their preference on a return to school model out of a menu of choices, including all remote learning, all in-person learning and some days with hybrid learning.
The elementary school parent respondents—which excluded grades four and five—could choose their preference of full time remote, two days of hybrid, four days of hybrid or full-time on-campus learning.
51% of parents voted for remote learning, while 36% chose full-time on-campus learning as their top choice.
Of the pre-K through third grade and sixth-grade respondents, 7,427 parents filled out the survey, representing 36% of the parent population.
For high school parents, 16,774 individuals responded, representing 91% of the parent population.
These respondents ranked their preference for remote learning, four days of hybrid learning and on-campus instruction.
78% of parents preferred full-time on-campus learning, while 18% of parents picked remote instruction as their first choice.
According to the survey, 86% of high school parents chose four days of hybrid learning as their second choice.