Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence K-8 School, cleaning

Custodian Reyna Valenzuela cleans off tables at Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence K-8 School, 4455 S. Mission Road in 2015. Cleaning protocols at schools across TUSD will be stepped up for the 2020-21 year due to the coronavirus.

When Tucson's largest school district opens for in-person instruction, students will be doing online learning regardless of whether their parents keep them home or send them to school. And their teachers may not be in the same classroom, or even at the school at all.

About 50 percent of TUSD families have said they want their children to return to in-person learning on Aug. 17 — the delayed start date set by Gov. Doug Ducey. The governor signed an executive order requiring school districts to offer a full academic year of in-person learning to any family who wants it for schools to be able to maintain funding levels comparable to last year's.

When the Tucson Unified School District opens, students who are doing in-person learning will be assigned a computer and a learning lab or work space with about 13 students to a room. That room will be overseen by a monitor, who will supervise the students, making sure they are safe and following health department guidelines around the coronavirus, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Whether doing in-person or virtual instruction, students in the same class will be doing the same virtual instruction with the same teacher. That teacher does not need to be in the same physical space as the students, and may not be, with some teachers working from home and others at the school. 

All classes will be online, including PE and fine arts. There will be a mix of online curriculum, live lessons of core instruction that a teacher will do virtually and virtual collaboration with small online groups.

Students will have breaks during the day and opportunities to do offline work within the virtual-learning curriculum plan.

Students with special needs will be prioritized for in-person learning and will not have the same mask and social-distancing requirements, but will be encouraged to wear face coverings and social distance to the extent possible, depending on a child’s sensory needs. The district will work with families to see which students meet the criteria for homebound services.

Which teachers work where has yet to be decided, although there has been a statewide and national outcry from educators who do not want to put health and lives at risk by returning to in-person instruction while the coronavirus continues to surge. However, some TUSD teachers say they are ready to return to the classroom, said Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo during the July 14 governing board meeting.

Having a completely virtual learning model will make it easier for individual schools or the district as a whole to switch to a remote-only option should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in a school or if the state calls for closures again.

TUSD will be assigning a computer to each of it's 44,000 students, regardless of how many students are in a home, making it a one-to-one district. 

To ensure safety protocols while students aren’t in the classroom, there will be limited movement between classrooms. Lunch will be eaten on a staggered schedule and in designated spaces, marked for social distancing; and dismissal will be staggered with designated spaces to wait for pick up that promote social distancing.

“I want to assure you that this mode of instruction won't be forever,” TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Flori Huitt told the governing board. “We are adapting to the current circumstances. We will be evaluating the state of affairs very closely with our health officials, so that if and once things do return to some degree of normalcy, we can begin offering a more traditional in-person model. And until that time, we feel that this provides equity of instruction and also a safe environment for all of those that are involved.”

For TUSD’s complete reopening plan go to tusd1.org/nextsteps2020. Email answers2020@tusd1.org with questions and concerns. The governing board will vote on the final plan for reopening schools at the July 28 board meeting.


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