Birmingham City Schools heading back to the classroom as teachers and faculty get COVID-19 vaccines

Birmingham schools returning to blended model

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham City Schools went to all virtual learning back in December, when the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was around 18%. Now that the positivity rate is a little more than 9%, Superintendent, Dr. Mark Sullivan, said it’s time for some students to head back to class.

All Birmingham City Schools employees will return to in-person work on March 1, 2021 and blended instruction will be offered for students beginning March 8th.

“The best instruction is face to face instruction,” Dr. Sullivan said. “Having students in the classroom and having teachers working with students, I think that is the best way to provide instruction.”

BCS families will be contacted by their local school staff regarding their preference for blended or continued virtual learning. Students in Group A will have in-person instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays. Students in Group B will have in-person instruction on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be deep-cleaning days, with students working independently at home on assignments from their teachers.

Dr. Sullivan said the decision is based on COVID-19 transmission in the community and how many faculty members are getting vaccinated. He said Birmingham City School district has around 3,000 employees and Sullivan said a little more than 700 have been vaccinated with their first shot at UAB.

“There are also employees who got vaccinated through their private doctors or other methods, so the numbers may even be higher than the over 700 that we have right now,” he said.

Students don’t have to come back if they don’t want to. All virtual learning is still an option.

“We understand that there are some parents who are still cautious,” Sullivan said. “We know there are still individuals with underlying health issues which may cause them not to want to be in an environment with other students.”

Dr. Sullivan said some Birmingham City school Students are suffering from a COVID slide and not doing as well academically as they should be. He said he hopes returning to the classroom while it’s safe will help.

“If we see an uptick in the number of cases in our local area then we will definitely make a decision to go back into virtual mode,” Dr. Sullivan said.

He said another way the district is hoping to make up for COVID-19 academic loss is by shortening summer and starting school in July. It’s just a proposal right now, but he says the board is set to vote on it next month.

But Sullivan said just because students are heading back to the classroom, doesn’t mean end of the year events will be in person. He said the district is still deciding on an in-person prom and graduation. Sullivan said they have three potential graduation plans in the works, all depending on the COVID-19 spread and positivity rate in Jefferson County.

He said last year’s prom was canceled because of the virus, but he said now they are looking into prom alternatives or ways to host the event safely. He said it is not as easy as limiting capacity to the dance, which is something the district does for sporting events, because of how social proms are.

“At a prom you are dancing and people are mingling,” Sullivan said. “It’s a party. So, I think the threat level for that may be a little bit greater than being in a large stadium where you are spaced out and only sitting with your immediate family.”

Dr. Sullivan said the district has not made a final decision on in person prom or graduation, but an update will come within the next few months.

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