Birmingham bringing students back to class
At a board of education meeting which began on Tuesday, September 15, and continued on to Thursday, September 17, Birmingham Public Schools trustees approved, by a vote of 5-2, a plan to begin to bring students back to class in a phased in plan. The plan reported that data shows that COVID-19 cases are at safe levels within the safety framework to begin in-person implementation. On Wednesday, September 30, kindergarten, first grade, special education and early education students will be brought back to elementary schools for those families who choose the in-person option, followed by second and third grade students on Wednesday, October 7, and fourth and fifth graders on Wednesday, October 14. Middle school students (sixth through eighth grades) and Birmingham Covington students in fifth through eighth grades will return to class on Wednesday, November 4, after the first marking period ends. All phases for returning students will be a combination of half-day in-person and half-day virtual. For those families who choose, an all virtual school remains an option. The board of education will review return plans for high school students at its meeting on Tuesday, October 6. High school students will remain in a remote environment at least until Monday, October 19. According to communication from the district, this allows for families to continue to utilize older students for childcare options during the transition. Birmingham Schools communications director Anne Cron said kindergarten, first grade and special education students are the first to return to class because they are the most vulnerable in an online environment. “The value of face-to-face education has been brought into the spotlight,” Cron said. “A lot of people have been successful navigating virtual education, both educators and students. People want to come back into classrooms, and we want students back.” A decision on how to successfully bring back high school students will be determined at the October meeting because the board has to look at various age bands, Cron explained, and the COVID cases at those age ranges, with double the case rate among students in the 19-26 age range. There are some high school and Annex students in that age range. “We are still committed to returning students as soon as it is safe to do so,” she said. She noted that there may be some changes in staffing as students return to physical spaces. “Operating both remote and in-person teaching, we cannot do both at the same time, so it may necessitate some teacher placement changes,” Cron said. School officials will continue to monitor for outbreaks, which is considered when there are two or more cases, with exposure determined within six feet of a test-positive case.