Students in the Birmingham area are starting to get back to their studies this week as schools slowly begin to reopen.
This week through Sept. 8, schools will be kicking off what is bound to be an unusual school year. While all schools will be offering virtual learning programs, some are allowing students to go to class in person and others are offering blended programs of virtual and in-person learning.
Fairfield City Schools was one of the earliest systems in the area to reconvene, on Monday. The system is having orientation this week, laying the groundwork for instruction to commence.
Parents and students are going to schools to receive schedules, syllabi and, in some cases, devices for online learning.
Ninth-graders received their devices Tuesday at Fairfield Preparatory High School. Those devices were in hand because of a Gear Up partnership in which the University of Montevallo wrote a grant that, in part, issues computers to students that they can keep as they are promoted from one grade to the next.
More than 1,000 computers arrived Monday, and school system staffers worked for three hours Tuesday to prepare those devices for student distribution next week.
“We hope to have them in the (school) buildings by Friday,” Superintendent Regina Thompson said. “On Monday, for instance, if kindergartners receive their computers on schedule, then on Tuesday kindergarteners start instruction.”
Other grade levels will follow suit on a similar schedule, with students receiving their devices one day and then beginning virtual classes the next day.
Fairfield’s virtual learning experience will be different from what it offered after COVID-19 brought an abrupt end to in-person learning in the spring.
“If you’re talking about elementary, we had students from C.J. Donald, Glen Oaks and Robinson all learning at the same time, through a Zoom lesson with the teachers,” the superintendent said. “Now, each parent will work with one individual teacher. That teacher will be able to help those 15 to 20 parents by themselves and they can freely call them.
“It is just like if your child was in my class, you would only work with me as a teacher,” Thompson said. “I’m going to talk you through the program. I’m going to tell you what resources can help them. And then if the child has special needs, then you will work with a special ed teacher as well.”
Operating plans vary for schools across the Birmingham area. Here’s a rundown on current plans by the schools, but expect some flexibility as schools react to coronavirus and technology challenges.
- Alabama School of Fine Arts: Will start Aug. 17, will have remote learning for the first eight weeks of school. If it is safe, they will return to in-person after that. https://www.asfa.k12.al.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=455601&type=d
- Alabaster: Will start Aug. 19 with in-person learning for the first nine-week period, and will offer the option of complete virtual learning. Students may switch between in-person and remote learning at the end of the first nine weeks. https://www.acsboe.org/reopening
- Bessemer City Schools: Will start Sept. 3 with virtual learning for at least the first nine weeks. http://www.bessk12.org/Default.asp?PN=News&L=1&DivisionID=24326&LMID=1204607
- Birmingham City Schools: Will start Sept. 8 and will offer virtual learning only for the first nine-week period. https://www.bhamcityschools.org/cms/lib/AL01001646/Centricity/Domain/4/OpeningofSchoolsGuide.pdf
- Fairfield: Will start Aug. 10 with virtual classes only. School leaders will see if it is safe enough to return to in-person after Labor Day. https://www.fairfieldschoolsystem.com/
- Homewood City Schools: Will start Aug. 19. Parents may decide between traditional and virtual learning. https://www.homewood.k12.al.us/Page/4609
- Hoover City Schools: Will start Aug. 20. Parents may choose between traditional and virtual learning plans. https://www.hoovercityschools.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=11&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=18345&PageID=1
- Jefferson County Schools: Will start Sep. 1. All students will start the year virtually for at least the first nine weeks. https://www.jefcoed.com/Page/4208
- Leeds: Will start Aug. 20, will have traditional and virtual learning. Virtual students can return to traditional learning if they want at the end of the first nine-week grading period or subsequent nine-week grading periods. This is a working plan and subject to change. https://www.leedsk12.org/
- Midfield City Schools: Will start Aug. 25, first nine weeks virtual https://www.midfield.k12.al.us/domain/108
- Mountain Brook City Schools: Will start Aug. 20, option of traditional learning or virtual learning. https://www.mtnbrook.k12.al.us/
- Shelby County: Will start Aug. 13, half of students will attend two days of school per week Monday-Tuesday while the other half Thursday-Friday. https://www.shelbyed.k12.al.us/doclibrary/Cautious-08-04-2020.pdf
- Tarrant: Will start Aug. 25, will have traditional or remote. https://www.tarrant.k12.al.us/
- Trussville City Schools: Will start Aug. 12 with a staggered start, in which students will be taken in in three groups on Aug. 12, 13 and 14. There is still the option of virtual learning if parents don’t want their children to go to school. https://www.trussvillecityschools.com/domain/883
- Vestavia City Schools: Will start Aug. 20, students will learn in-person or virtual. https://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/Page/4079
This story is being updated as school systems change planned opening dates, including Birmingham, Bessemer and Mountain Brook.