From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The Jefferson County Board of Education held a special called, virtual meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.
Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin recommended the school system provide online-only instruction for at least the first nine weeks of school. He also recommended to push back the start date of the 2020-2021 school year.
The school board approved the recommendation in a 4:1 vote, with School Board President Ronnie Dixon being the only nay.
“The Jefferson County School System will begin the 2020-2021 school year with remote learning,” Gonsoulin said.
School will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Gonsoulin recommended the delayed start to school in order to allow time for teachers and parents to prepare.
The superintendent said he made the recommendation after holding eight town hall meetings across the county.
“Over the last two and a half weeks we have been hearing from our community and holding town hall meetings,” Gonsoulin said.
The school system also sent out surveys and over 80% of households responded. 56% of parents asked for online instruction and 44% preferred face-to-face instruction.
Gonsoulin added that he feels that remote learning is the safest way.
There will still be a presence on each campus. Faculty and staff will be asked to report to their work location. Small groups of students will be on campus for special education and extracurricular activities.
After nine weeks, the system will re-evaluate and make further decisions.
“As soon as we can we will be bringing students on campus in a controlled fashion,” Gonsoulin added.
School Board President Ronnie Dixon said he disagrees with the decision. He said by offering an option, fewer students would be in the classroom and parents who do not have the option to work from home would be able to send their children to school. He also said school leaders have a responsibility to children to allow them to come to school.
“I just don’t think we are doing the right thing,” Dixon said.
Dixon pleaded with the school board to consider his concerns before the vote.
“I apologize to the people who are going to suffer,” Dixon added. “Those who will be out of jobs and otherwise.”