In its weekly meeting, the Tuscaloosa City School Board approved a plan to allow students to return to the classroom as early as Sept. 21 for elementary and middle school students, and Sept. 28 for high school students. The vote was approved 5-3 on Tuesday night.

By the end of the month, half the student body will learn on campus on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half will be on campus on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will serve as a virtual day for all students as all schools will be deep cleaned. All city schools will look to a full return to campus on Oct. 12.

"We know that it is possible to get back in school safely," Superintendent Mike Daria said. "Yes some schools are having to isolate students and staff, but we are learning from what they are doing well and what maybe is not going so well and that is important."

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Daria said that this staggered return will show "what does work from our plan and what does not work." He said that it is important that the plan is flexible to allow students to stay in the classroom.

"We do not have all the answers to all of the questions to all yet. We do need to get into schools to see what's working and what's not working," Daria said. "We also need the patience and the flexibility for this to work. If we get in and we begin running a staggered schedule and we see something is not working, we need the ability to back up and change that direction."

The City School system expects over 6,000 students to return to the classroom after it was announced that 42 percent of students opted for all-year virtual learning. Despite the reduced number of students, Daria said that social distancing will still be a challenge as class sizes will not be reduced.

Despite this, Daria said that masks will be required for all students and staff while in the school. The City School district has also provided staff with Plexiglas face shields and have implemented "sanitation stations" throughout the schools.

Daria also said that time in cafeterias will "not be used as it has traditionally in the past." Students will have meals in the classrooms and on occasion rotations in the cafeteria. The school board will also look into other protective measures if the staggered approach shows they are necessary.

"We really need to get in there, see how this work and then adjust," Daria said. "If it means we look at additional Plexiglas barriers especially for our your younger students, maybe that's something we have to consider."

Watch the entire presentation to the school board below, and stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more updates from the system as they become available.