The TUSD Governing Board approved a budget plan Tuesday night that would include $12.7 million in COVID-19 related expenses.
The proposed Tucson Unified School District budget includes added expenses for cleaning equipment and personal protection equipment, no-touch water bottle filling stations, additional custodians, and monitors to ensure schools are clean and students are properly social distancing. The extra funding also will help cover additional technical services and software for online learning.
The proposed budget is a $32.5 million increase from the current fiscal budget. A final approval of the budget is expected next month.
While a final plan for classes to resume has not yet been approved, TUSD officials say they expect more students will attend school online rather than return to in-person classes.
The district is not currently considering a hybrid schedule where students go to school some days and learn online on others, said Flori Huitt, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
If TUSD moved to an online-only model, administrators said they worried about losing some state funding.
However, those concerns were raised a day before Gov. Doug Ducey announced a new funding plan for public schools Wednesday afternoon that includes accommodations related to extra expenses related to the virus pandemic.
Further, Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said TUSD is trying to avoid creating an expensive childcare problem for its families. Across the district, 70% of homes are enrolled in the free or reduced-price lunch program.
Some TUSD parents need their children to go back to school five days a week because they need to return to work, said Huitt, the assistant superintendent.
Board members also heard from several district directors about what learning may look like in the upcoming school year due to changes prompted by the virus pandemic.
Among possible changes:
Sports “pods” planned
- Athletic or music practices would start no sooner than July 6. The district’s interscholastics director, Herman House, suggested each school should create a COVID-19 response team for extracurricular activities. The teams would include administrators, custodians, coaches, athletic trainers and the supervising physician, he said.
- Athletes could have to complete health questionnaires and have their temperature taken regularly; group gatherings would be limited to no more than 10 people; and social distancing will be required during workouts. Most sports workouts could be conducted in “pods,” or groups of the same five to 10 students who would work out together. No locker rooms would be available in the early stages of the return. Students would change in bathrooms where only two students at a time would be allowed to do so.
Dual language program changes
- Face shields or clear masks would be provided to English Language Development teachers so students can watch their mouth movements during lessons. The same masks would be given to teachers of hearing impaired students.
- Students would have access to language-learning computer programs that can be used in class or at home.
- An online academy for band, choir, orchestra, mariachi, guitar and choir could be established in addition to in-person instruction.
- Students would have access to two music programs they could use at home.
The department’s lead nurse has been contacting families to help the TUSD plan for each student’s individual needs, said Sabrina Salmon, interim director of Exceptional Education.
- The department is considering installing Plexiglas to keep students safe and healthy even if they can’t wear a mask or if they’re uncomfortable by people around them wearing face coverings.
Plexiglas or clear masks also would be available to teachers so students can see their mouth movements.
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June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear
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