TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Tucson Unified School District board has opened the door for schools to more easily return to remote learning, if deemed necessary.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to amend the district’s superintendent closure policy, delineating that remote learning is not considered a school “closure” because attendance is still taken and instruction still takes place, albeit in a different form.
The decision came after hours of debate and discussion, including an executive session involving legal counsel that was closed to the public.
There seemed to be a general hesitancy from board members to return the entire district to remote learning in order to quell concerning, COVID-related staffing shortages across the district. Board members pointed out that remote learning takes away meals and child care from families along with its educational drawbacks.
However, the board wanted to amend a policy that had made remote learning difficult to impose even in dangerous staffing situations.
“Numbers are not as high as they were the last week or the week before but they’re not low,” board president Adelita Grijalva said. “And so if we do come to a situation where we need to go remote, I wanna make sure we don’t need an emergency meeting to do that.”
TUSD’s policy allowing a superintendent to close schools for operational or safety issues—like a staffing shortage—extends only for up to two days. Any closure imposed beyond that would require the district sending an amended school year calendar to the Arizona Department of Education to adhere to teaching hour requirements.
However, considering remote learning as simply another form of a regular school day gives superintendent Gabriel Trujillo more flexibility.
Trujillo says a three-tiered framework will be shared with district principals this week that would give them more power in calling for an emergency closure due to staffing shortages.
In the framework, according to Trujillo, principals could decide to shut down their campus if all school and district subs have been used, combined class sizes become too big and large groups of students are supervised in shared spaces like cafeterias or auditoriums for more than one day.
Trujillo also said Tuesday, however, that staffing shortages are improving this week, with fewer teachers out due to COVID than any time in the last 10 days.