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Tucson Unified announces start date for hybrid learning, return of employees
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Tucson Unified announces start date for hybrid learning, return of employees

Mix of in-person, virtual learning may kick off on Oct. 19

This classroom at John B. Wright Elementary School is set up to allow for social distancing while students are at their desks.

Tucson Unified will start a mix of in-person and virtual learning on Oct. 19, as long as the Pima County Health Department says it’s safe to do so.

Tucson’s largest school district also announced dates for a phased-in return of employees to work beginning with district office employees on Sept. 21, followed by support staff who are not teachers on Sept. 28 and teachers on Oct. 19.

“We are committed to making these decisions, of course, based off of Pima County Health Department recommendations at every phase of this epidemic,” said Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo at the Sept. 9 governing board meeting. “We did so when the criteria was in the danger zone. We have to honor the recommendations again, as this criteria starts to move north into yellow and green.”

Despite Pima County meeting state benchmarks to start offering hybrid instruction, the Pima County Health Department has an additional metric regarding the region’s ability to conduct contact tracing that hasn’t been met. County health officials have also recommended schools wait until it’s apparent how the influx of students at the University of Arizona affects the coronavirus and public-health metrics.

TUSD employees will come back on a staggered schedule to begin with, much like the hybrid model school districts are suggesting for students. Employees in shared work spaces would be split into two groups to stagger the days they come in person. 

“We think that this is the most cautious approach that allows us to take a step forward but still be able to implement all of our mitigation strategies,” Trujillo said.

As well, staff who have kids that are doing remote learning from home will have the option to bring their kids into online learning spaces in schools.

There are 716 children on TUSD campuses now, utilizing on-site care services required by Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order. TUSD has closed two campuses and two classrooms, since opening doors for those services on Aug. 17, due to cases of COVID-19. 

The district, with about 45,000 students, does not make individual cases public unless there is a closure recommended in coordination with the Pima County Health Department.

TUSD is aiming to present its hybrid-learning model at the Sept. 22 board meeting. It will continue to offer fully remote learning the rest of the school year for families who want that option. 

Sunnyside announced its hybrid model on Sept. 8, with the same tentative start date as TUSD. Sunnyside, Tucson’s second largest district with more than 15,000 students, estimates 25 to 40% of students will opt to stay fully remote.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

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