Hoover City Schools to reopen with staggered schedule for in-person learning

HOOVER – Hoover City Schools students who have chosen the in-person instruction option will start the 2020-2021 school year on a staggered schedule.

Following a lengthy discussion during a work session, the Hoover Board of Education on Aug. 3 voted in favor of Hoover City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathy Murphy’s recommendation to implement a Level 3 reopening plan with a staggered schedule for the first four weeks of school, from Aug. 20-Sept. 18, during which school system officials will reassess conditions to determine how to proceed after the four-week timeframe.

The staggered schedule will divide students based on the first letter of their last names and their high school feeder zone into groups. One group will go to campus Monday and Thursday for in-person learning and the other on Tuesday and Friday. Students will engage in remote learning on the three days they are not on their school campus each week.

Murphy said the purpose of the staggered schedule is to make social distancing possible in each of the district’s school buildings.

“As you all know, I have certainly been transparent about the fact that I believe in-person education is the best education when we look at that up against online learning, but also it’s all of our passion to make sure that we can do that safely,” Murphy said. “In order to achieve the social distancing, the only way short of not coming to school would be for us to stagger our students. That is not ideal. I have not found what is ideal in this period of time of COVID, but I do believe in order for us to be able to get back into school, in order to be able to honor as we want to honor social distancing, the only way we can do that is to stagger our students.”

The Level 3 reopening plans also include a facial covering requirement for all students in pre-K through 12th grade.

Murphy said adjustments could be made to restrictions depending on how the situation unfolds during the first part of the school year.

“We’re tracking this,” Murphy said. “Things are moving. Things are changing. We may find ourselves having to do something differently.”

Murphy said thorough cleanings will take place multiple times every day at every school building, and a district-wide COVID team is prepared to implement additional disinfecting measures in classrooms or buses if a positive case is reported.

As of Aug. 3, the school district was at 97 percent of its expected student enrollment, with about 8,800 students opting for in-person learning and about 4,552 students opting for virtual learning.

Students with special needs in general education will attend school on a staggered schedule, while students who are in a self-contained classroom would attend half a day for five days, according to Claire Jones-Moore, director of special services. About 390 students in special education will engage in virtual learning.

“We’ve had so many parents that have reached out to us, and I’m so appreciative of them,” Jones-Moore said. “They’ve given us good ideas. We’re going to make sure that we meet all our obligations.”

Child Nutrition Program Director Melinda Bonner said her staff is committed to serving children and providing food at all times.

Students returning to school for in-person learning will receive meals from the cafeteria to eat either in the cafeteria socially distanced or in their respective classrooms.

The program will continue curbside pickup for meals at four locations: Green Valley Elementary, Berry Middle, Bumpus Middle and Simmons Middle schools.

Bonner said families may apply for free and reduced price meals. Eligibility is based on household size and income.

Applications are available online at Paypams.com/onlineapp.aspx and also will be sent home with every student.

Jeremy Bradford, coordinator of transportation, said student ridership numbers for school buses are mostly the same as they were in March, with roughly 8,600 students currently expected to ride buses.

Bradford said all bus drivers will wear gloves and masks, and seating charts will be utilized for students.

Dr. Debra Walker Smith, director of RC3 (Riverchase Career Connection Center), said the staggered schedule will give students the opportunity to come to campus for labs instead of doing everything virtually.

“We have a lot of things in place to keep them safe as far as doing the hands-on activities and procedures, and we’ll get to support their learning virtually as well,” she said.