By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Students in Birmingham City Schools will begin the 2020-21 academic year on Tuesday, September 8, the day after Labor Day, instead of the previously planned August 24, school officials announced this week.
The Birmingham Board of Education approved the change at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
The change will allow more time for educators to prepare for remote teaching and for the district to put in place a system to distribute thousands of electronic devices, Interim Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan said.
“This is going to be an exciting, yet unprecedented year of teaching and learning in Birmingham City Schools,” Sullivan said. “Our team has been working throughout the summer to get the resources in place for the start of the academic year. We also have made an aggressive push to encourage families to register.”
More than half of the district’s 22,000 students have registered, and the goal is to have all students registered by August 15, he added.
“Registration is imperative,” Sullivan said. “Each student will be assigned an electronic device. Only students who are registered will be issued a device.”
Last month, school administrators announced the first nine weeks of the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) 2020-2021 year will be done remotely and the decision was based on the large number of COVID cases in the area and to keep students and staff safe.
“We will reevaluate the conditions at the end of the nine-week grading period to determine if we should move forward with additional remote learning plans,” said Sullivan at the time. “We have constantly watched COVID-19 cases across our city and state rise. This decision was not made lightly but at this juncture, I believe it is our best option to ensure… a safe, nurturing environment for all of our students.”
Under the plan, students will attend class online, which will be taught by BCS teachers with both at home.
Students will be given electronic devices for classwork and families who do not have access to internet will have the district provide hot spots.
“In this digital environment . . . we know that remote learning has its challenges, but we are in this together,” said the interim superintendent. “One thing I know about this school system is that we are a family and as a family, we are going to work through this issue.”
Teachers began training on digital platforms last spring such as Zoom and Schoology and that will continue throughout the beginning of the school year, Sullivan said.
The district will also plan to continue providing meal services for students.
“All of our schools will have cafeteria services, do drive-bys as we did when we started this practice in March,” he said.
This year, all registration tasks can be completed online. For more information, go to www.bhamcityschools.org.