July 21, 2022 / Modified jul 21, 2022 8:42 p.m.

TUSD school year to start with staff shortages and security upgrades

Southern Arizona's largest school district is "working creatively" to solve the challenges

TUSD Front of Building Outside of the Robert D. Morrow Education Center for Tucson Unified School District.
Andrea Corona

Tucson Unified School District students return to school on August 4th. Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo says the district will be ready for them but is facing some staffing challenges. With only a couple of weeks left, the district short 25 middle and High School math teachers, 50 special-education teachers, and 60 bus drivers. They also have just 300 substitute teachers registered - less than half the pre-pandemic number.

"We are working creatively to try to solve the issues without burning teachers out by assigning them extra classes or going past the negotiated class sizes with the Tucson Education Association, or local teachers' association," he says

Among those potential creative solutions, the district is considering contracting with a Chicago-based company to provide online live-streamed math classes on a temporary basis. That is still being researched and would have to be approved by the TUSD Board.

In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, the district has hired 8 new security staff and is preparing an evaluation of each school's safety infrastructure capacities. In addition to hiring 8 new security staff, Trujillo says southern Arizona's largest school district is taking steps to harden its defenses.

"We are doing a thorough audit of our schools safety infrastructure capacities specifically around fencing, gates, locks, keyless entry systems. We're going to be coming to the governing board with recommendations to make improvements and investments in those areas."

He says they won't be able to address everything at once but will make a start.

"We'll be prioritizing campuses that don't have any fencing at the top of the list. we're going to be prioritizing campuses that don't have cameras and surveillance systems."

Trujillo says he will also be meeting with school principals next week to outline a series of measures the district will take to more strictly regulate the movement of visitors on its campuses. He says once he has met with the principals, the district will publish those new regulations to parents and the public.

And in what he called a major accomplishment, more than 700 of the district's lowest paid employees will start the year with a raise to $15 per hour.

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