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Dr. Mark Sullivan Says Schools Will Open Early, But Not Mid-July

The Birmingham Times

After receiving feedback from parents, employees and the community, Birmingham City Schools has revised its proposed calendar for the upcoming academic year. Under the new plan, students would still have 180 days of instruction with school starting on Aug. 2.

Last month, the district had proposed starting the school year in mid-July and having breaks of eight to 10 days between grading periods.  A majority of parents and employees who took school district surveys indicated they were opposed to those changes.

“We have listened to our parents and employees. They agree that we need to have an intentional and strategic plan for remediation and enrichment as we emerge from the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they want us to do something different from our original proposal,” said Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan.  “By starting the school year a few days earlier and using breaks between grading periods to help students catch up or get ahead, we can help address academic problems that developed because of the impact of COVID-19.”

The proposal was presented to the Board of Education during its regular meeting on Tuesday. The board is expected to study the proposal and vote at a later date. The district has asked parents and employees to review the updated proposal and complete an online survey by noon on Friday, March 19.

For the 2020 school year, the district was scheduled to start on August 24, 2020, but started on September 8th due to the pandemic.

Last month, officials considered a number of options for the 2021-2022 school year including additional days in the summer and the mid-July start date, which would be done to “help alleviate gaps associated with the impact of COVID-19.”

“We cannot wait to start developing plans to meet the needs of our scholars, who have experienced academic challenges while facing the realities of this pandemic,” Sullivan said at the time. “Input from our BCS families and our employees is imperative, because we are a team. We will work together to ensure that our scholars reach their highest potential for success.”

However, teachers had concerns from the start. Alabama Education Association UniServ Director Willie Allen said some educators worried that the mid-July start date would make it more difficult for parents to plan breaks as well as starting school during the hottest time of the year.

“A concern from the teachers is the adjustment,” Allen said. “Adjusting to that new calendar or adjusting to that being something new for them. Possibly even for the kids to where they will have to adjust to it as well.”

Alabama mandates 180 days of instruction for all districts; Birmingham’s original proposed shift to a year-round calendar would have the same amount of school days, but offer longer and more frequent breaks.

Click one of the links below to read more stories about one year after COVID.

COVID-19 And Birmingham: One Year Later

How COVID-19 Made A Stronger Birmingham City Schools System