By Zach Hester, Reporter • email@example.com (Photo by The Shelby County Reporter)
ALABAMA — On Friday, State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey announced the “road to reopening” after uncertainty has arisen around how Alabama schools will safely reopen this fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the press conference, Mackey laid out a 50-page document containing guidelines for reopening, as opposed to outright mandates for local school systems. The plan diverts much of the responsibility for reopening to local officials like superintendents and boards of education.
According to a statewide survey, Mackey stated 15% of parents were not comfortable with their children returning to schools, but the rates varied from county to county. The document states all school districts will be required to offer remote learning opportunities for children who choose to remain at home this fall.
In a survey conducted by USA Today/Ipsos, 1 in 5 teachers said they were unlikely to return to classrooms this fall, paving the way for a massive load of resignations if those opinions hold nationwide.
“This will absolutely be the most difficult school year we have ever faced,” said Mackey. “We are certainly in a better position now to understand what we need to do to sanitize, to maintain social distancing, to do other precautionary things like wearing facial coverings...however, it is extremely important that students and teachers and coaches and other staff members practice the social distancing requirements.”
Extracurricular activities will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with some requiring a mask and social distancing, while others will not.
The day before the press conference, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) released their expectations for what reopening schools could look like and their statement afterward indicates they are pleased with the plan.
“There is not a statewide mandate to reopen Alabama schools, but instead each local school system will develop individual district plans to reopen their local district,” AEA said in a press release. “AEA was pleased to see the plan includes many of the expectations AEA President Sherry Tucker released this week. However, because this plan is not a statewide mandate but is instead a set of guidelines and recommendations for local school systems to use when developing a local plan, AEA is prepared to do what we do best which is work with each local school district to ensure students and educators have what they need to be safe and successful.”
Since March 13, more than 30,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded in the State of Alabama with over 850 deaths. The caseload has only grown over the last month.
“I have spent the past couple days working through developing our local plan and guidance for educators, parents, and administrators,” said DeKalb County Superintendent Dr. Jason Barnett. “I know that many of you are anxiously awaiting as much guidance as we can provide, and I assure you that we are preparing, planning, and developing the logistics and guidance to the best of our ability in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.”
Barnett said he expects guidance from Educators’ Guidance soon, and will take additional information from Parents’ and Family Guidance.
“Your local school faculty and staff have been and will continue to be working very hard to provide the best opportunities for your children, our students, to learn in a safe and effective manner,” he concluded. “The 2020-2021 school year will most certainly be a challenging year, but there will also be an amazing opportunity to reach students in ways we have never done before, and for that I am hopeful.”