Tuscaloosa City Schools will take a systemwide break from in-person learning, closing on Friday and holding virtual classes on Monday at all schools.
In an email to parents, Superintendent Mike Daria said a shortage of substitute teachers and bus drivers brought on by a surge in COVID-19 cases led to the decision. The goal is to resume in-person classes on Tuesday, he said.
"By building in a block of time (Jan. 21-24) with students at home, this will allow an opportunity to decrease the current staffing challenges," Daria said. "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."
The system has been able to fill about 42% of the teacher vacancies, Daria said, 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," he said.
He also noted that the system's transportation department has been operating with about 30 unfilled routes, with projected absences of up to 20 bus 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," Daria said.
The system's latest numbers show 2.93% percent of students in Tuscaloosa City Schools reported as testing positive for COVID-19, along with 3.68% of employees. The daily attendance rate has been around 84%.
Staffing shortages also led to virtual classes being held Thursday at five Tuscaloosa City Schools: Paul W. Bryant High, Westlawn Middle, Eastwood Middle, Southview Elementary and Tuscaloosa Magnet-Middle.
While Daria said students and teachers will return to the classroom on Tuesday, he didn't rule out further closures or days of virtual learning.
"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," Daria said.
"We thank you for your understanding as we move through this challenging time."
Reach Ken Roberts at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Tuscaloosa City Schools to take temporary break from in-person classes