All 21 schools within the Tuscaloosa City Schools system will close on Friday and all classes will be conducted virtually on Monday as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through the area.

In a Wednesday night letter and call to parents, TCS Superintendent Mike Daria said the decision, which will affect more than 10,000 students, was not made lightly.

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The virus, a crippling lack of substitute teachers and a shortage of healthy bus drivers all combined to force Daria's hand.

In the letter, Daria said all classes will resume in-person next Tuesday, and that the system's goal is to remain in-person for the rest of the school year.

Read Daria's full message below.

Dear TCS Families,
This letter has important information regarding the operation of the Tuscaloosa City Schools for the next few days.

The Tuscaloosa City Schools will be closed on Friday, January 21, 2022 for students. Monday, January 24, 2022 will serve as a virtual day for our students. All schools will resume in-person learning on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

It is and remains our goal to stay in school and avoid having to go to virtual. However, there are significant challenges that led us to this decision. Here are some challenges and reasons that led us to this decision:

All schools are impacted by the staffing challenge. We have only been able to fill approximately 42% of our teacher vacancies leaving numerous classrooms without a substitute. While our schools have managed with internal scheduling and incredible faculty/staff members, it has pulled our teachers and other personnel from their planning and other responsibilities.

Our transportation department will be operating with approximately 30 unfilled routes with projected absences of fifteen to twenty drivers. We are very close to not being able to provide this essential service. This time will allow us to get our drivers back from leave while providing us an opportunity to disinfect all of our buses.

As of the time of this communication, we have 2.93% of our students reported as being positive and 3.68% of our employees. Our daily attendance rate for students is approximately 84%. This time out will allow all students and employees currently reported as positive to return.

By building in a block of time (January 21-24) with students at home, this will allow an opportunity to decrease the current staffing challenges. We will also use these days to disinfect our school buildings. Further, our teachers will be able to build back their classroom planning while other departments assess needs for future operations.

Your child’s school will communicate specifics related to the virtual days on Monday. All schools will resume in-person learning on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

When we return to our schools on Tuesday, we will continue to make school-by-school decisions based on the staffing issues at each school. Should we need to move an individual school to virtual for a brief period of time, your child’s school will communicate that to you directly.

We thank you for your understanding as we move through this challenging time.

Mike Daria, Ed.D.

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