Back to School: Metro Districts Moving From Virtual to Face-to-Face Instruction

Elementary students in Hoover attend class four days a week. (Source: Hoover City Schools)

As metro Birmingham school systems learn to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, many of them are changing back to traditional class schedules, or at least something closer to it.

In general, many systems that began with only virtual learning to start the year already have moved toward allowing students back on campus, at least part time. The Jefferson County School System, for instance, is in the midst of a staggered plan to get students back to school in person full time.

Others plan to reassess their schedules at the end of the first nine-week grading period, late this month. Birmingham city schools still are teaching only virtually, for instance, but school officials are starting to survey parents and employees to determine how to return students to campuses.

Reported COVID-19 cases among students, educators and support staffers have stayed below levels of concern that would trigger changes in the local systems.

Football programs, though, are a different story. Some have had positive cases among players or staff that forced part or all of the team members into quarantine, following Alabama High School Athletic Association guidelines. That’s caused several teams to forfeit games, including Vestavia Hills, Mortimer Jordan, Fultondale, Fairfield and Jackson-Olin.

More than 150 AHSAA games have been forfeited this season, including at least 20 contests statewide last week, and a handful of others involving out-of-state opponents were canceled.

Here’s the updated list of school systems and their plans:

  • Alabama School of Fine Arts: Moving to hybrid beginning Oct. 13. A group of students will take morning classes virtually, then afternoon specialty classes in person for a three-week period. After that, the first group will return to remote learning while a second group goes to virtual mornings and in-person afternoons for three more weeks. Remote-only learning remains an option as well.
  • Alabaster: No changes since school began. Continuing with in-person classes or optional virtual learning. Students may switch methods at the end of nine-week periods.
  • Bessemer City Schools: Moved to hybrid schedule. After beginning with virtual learning only, students as of Sept. 28 attend schools two days a week and continue virtually on the other three days.
  • Birmingham City Schools: No change so far this period. The system began the year Sept. 8 with virtual learning only for the first nine-week period. The system has posted surveys on its website and social media for parents and for faculty and staff to complete to help it make plans for the remainder of the year. The surveys are due by 5 p.m. Monday.
  • Fairfield: Returned to in-school teaching on staggered schedule. Through Oct. 29, students attend either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays, with virtual learning on the other three days of the week. On Nov. 2, pre-K through sixth grades will return to in-school classes every day, while seventh grade and upward stay with staggered schedule. All students return to in-school classes Jan. 6. Full virtual learning remains an option for the entire school year.
  • Homewood City Schools: No changes. Parents may continue to choose between traditional and virtual learning.
  • Hoover City Schools: Moving all students to full five-day schedule Oct. 19. Elementary students previously had shifted to four days a week in schools while grades six and higher went to two days in-school per week. No change for virtual-learning students.
  • Jefferson County Schools: In a three-step transition back to full classroom learning. Pre-K and self-contained exceptional education students returned to traditional five-day in-school learning Oct. 5 after first attending on a split schedule, two days on campus and three days virtual. Elementary students have started the process and will be back in classrooms full time Oct. 12. Middle and high school students start their split schedule Oct. 12 and return to classrooms full time on Oct. 19.
  • Leeds: Returned to traditional schedule. On Sept. 12, students in grades 6-12 resumed five-day classroom schedules.
  • Midfield City Schools: No changes. Continues with virtual learning until further notice because of mechanical problems with ventilation at the school.
  • Mountain Brook City Schools: Moving to full in-school schedules. Beginning Oct. 19, elementary schools will meet five days a week with rotating schedules for upper grades. High school and junior high will meet four days a week, with Wednesdays as virtual days. Full virtual learning also is an option.
  • Shelby County: Changed from two days per week on campus to five days on Sept. 14.
  • Tarrant: Changing to hybrid/blended schedule. On Oct. 19, students will be divided into two groups, with half attending in-school classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and virtual learning the other three days; the other half will learn in school on Thursdays and Fridays. Tarrant began the year with virtual learning only.
  • Trussville City Schools: No changes. Superintendent Pattie Neill told parents and students Monday that the current plan, which involves virtual and blended plans, would remain in effect through Dec. 18.
  • Vestavia Hills City Schools: Older students moving to five days on campus. Middle and high school students will end the previous two-day schedule and resume traditional classes Oct. 14. Elementary school students have been on a five-day schedule since the new school year began.