Birmingham City Schools Superintendent defends decision to keep schools open despite concerns from teachers and parents

Birmingham City School details COVID response
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 11:00 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham City School leaders are trying to address teacher and parent concerns about COVID. Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan says he understands teachers are worried about the virus.

BCS held a couple of listening sessions Wednesday to answer questions from teachers and parents. Some of them feel the district isn’t doing enough to keep its employees safe at work.

Sullivan is pushing back saying from the beginning the district has been proactive in keeping schools open by requiring face masks, providing PPE, hosting vaccination clinics among other things.

Former school board member Terri Michal, who is also a union representative for the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers says someone at Wenonah High School is terribly sick with COVID and has brought the virus home to a family member who has passed away. She feels the district isn’t taking the situation serious enough. Dr. Sullivan strongly disagrees with that assessment.

“This is serious. We are ignoring things like that and we can no longer. We can no longer. I know you love the children, but our employees are not machines,” Michal said.

“We started asymptomatic testing because we want to identify people so that people are not dying...I don’t want to go to another funeral so we want to make sure that our employees and our students are safe,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Sullivan says the classroom is the best place for students to be right now, instead of in environments that aren’t doing much to slow the spread of COVID.

“But for us to say that the first place we need to close is the place that requires masks, requires vaccinations and providing testing, that just doesn’t seem like that is something that we need to be advocating for if we want to make sure our children have the best they need in order to be successful,” said during the listening session.

Sullivan tells us 70% of BCS students scored a level one in math who took the test last year and nearly 40% with a level one in reading. Sullivan says the district must balance COVID response against its mission to educate kids and prepare them for the future.

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