Birmingham Schools Discuss Plans to Reopen Aug. 24

The Birmingham Board of Education has formed a plan for students to start the new school year, but many questions remain about how learning will look.

The interim superintendent of Birmingham City Schools, Dr. Mark Sullivan, said in a press conference Friday that BCS is in the process of figuring out how to start school while keeping students, parents and teachers healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We purposely delayed the announcement for our BCS plan because we wanted to be thorough,” Sullivan said.

Birmingham’s schools are set to open to students Aug. 24.

Dr. Jermaine Dawson, who is the chief academic officer for BCS, laid out four courses of action for schooling that the Board of Education is considering.

The first option would be remote learning, in which students would learn from home. Dawson said, “We will follow this option if the risk in the community is high or very high.”

A second possibility is a blended approach in which students would rotate days spent at home with days spent at school. Dawson said the board would choose this method if the threat from the coronavirus was moderate.

The third option would be traditional schooling, an option that would be chosen if there is a significant decline in the risk of getting the coronavirus. This choice may be improbable as cases in the state are continuing to rise.

A fourth method that parents could choose is complete virtual learning for the first nine-week grading period. At any point during the school year, BCS could switch between plans. But if parents decide, they can have their child learn completely virtually.

There is no deadline set for when BCS has to decide which option it will go with. But the interim superintendent plans to make his final recommendation by July 31. Local health officers and the Alabama Department of Public Health are monitoring the level of risk, which will inform the decision.

Horn said school registration will be done online.

“I can’t stress the importance of registration,” Horn said, “We need you to be in our system.”

Sullivan closed the press conference by directing parents and other people with questions to the BCS website and to look for the FAQ page.

He added that there will be another press conference and the Board of Education would keep people updated. “We want to be transparent; we want to be open,” Sullivan said.