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ALSDE lays out roadmap to reopening

On June 15, Chambers County School District released their tentative start date for returning to school. The anticipation from Dr. Kelli Hodge is that classes will resume Wednesday, Aug. 12, However, she said in a press release that the dates could change according to data associated with COVID-19.

Hodge and other school leaders completed training on the roadmap to reopening schools earlier this week.

“We will begin next week looking at the items which are labeled as essential and plan how to implement those first,” Hodge said. “Our plan right now is to open on time using the option for in-person or virtual learning, but we have a lot of planning to do before then.”

Lanett City Schools Superintendent Jennifer Boyd also received the roadmap earlier this week and said they are fully engulfed in the planning process.

“We do not have a plan finalized as of this morning,” she said in an email to the Valley Times-News Friday. “There are numerous factors to take into consideration, including guidance from ALSDE.”

That guidance was laid out in a Friday morning press conference with Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey and state health officer Dr. Scott Harris.

State schools are set to reopen on time unless local boards or the governor decides differently.

During a press conference Friday, Mackey released a 46-page document that detailed operational guidance on the return to schools. Mackey reiterated that districts will make the final determination on what to do or not to do.

“It’s a guidance document,” Mackey said. “It’s not legal advice or ALSDE mandate. It is based on expertise and experience.”

Each school district is responsible for submitting their own plans for reopening. However, there is no deadline to do so.

Mackey added that Alabama has been very fortunate in that they are not talking about significant cutbacks like some other states across the country who have had to cut up 20 percent.

“We are in the process of distributing about $200 million to local schools as the turn in their plans,” Mackey said.

In addition to reopening, districts will need to provide remote learning opportunities for children who do not return to school. 

“We have asked around the state. We’ve asked local superintendents to poll, and about 15 percent of parents tell us that they are not comfortable sending their children back to school,” Mackey said.

When asked about extracurricular activities and competitions, Mackey said there will be extracurricular activities, but they will look different than it did last year.

“As everybody wants to know, what about football?” Mackey continued. “Those activities are going to look different too, but those will resume also.”

Safer protocols will need to be addressed in terms of equipment, how often it will need to be cleaned and how realistic the frequency of cleaning is going to be per sport. Rules will likely be adjusted to allow for proper social distancing both in the stands and on the sidelines during these events.

The Alabama Education Association, the member-driven voice of Alabama education employees president Sherry Tucker also commented on the roadmap laid out my ALSDE this morning.

“With AEA’s strong presence in every school district in the state, AEA will be there when those plans are drafted and make sure student and educator voices are heard in the process,” Tucker said. “The health, safety and success of students and educators are top priorities for AEA. We welcome parents and other community leaders to join with us as we move forward.”