Alabama public schools will reopen in August despite the COVID-19 pandemic, but parents will have the option of continuing distance learning for their children, Alabama Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said Thursday.
“Campuses will reopen for personal instruction. They will be physically open, with remote learning” available, Mackey said.
There also will be a “blended” learning situation that allows students to transition between traditional and remote instruction as needs arise, he said.
Mackey said a survey done by the Alabama Department of Education found that 15% of parents do not want their children to return to a school campus at present.
Local boards of education will decide whether schools reopen and how campuses will operate throughout the year, he said. Those decisions will be made with recommendations from the state school superintendent and the state health officer.
Mackey said that while schools will be traditional, classrooms will not look the same with students distanced from each other.
Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, who worked with the Education Department on school reopening, cautioned that “none of us are sure what the situation will be in August.”
The opening of schools will include the return of athletics and extracurricular activities, Mackey said, but there will be new safety protocols in place. He said education officials are still refining those protocols and are getting guidance from the Alabama High School Athletic Association on sports programs.
Parents and families should be aware of children with symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, congestion, shortness of breath and gastrointestinal problems, he said. Parents should keep symptomatic children at home and let school officials know of the situation, Mackey said.
The screening process for students will include having staff visually check for symptoms and possibly do temperature checks.
The Department of Education is continuing to work with state leaders to secure funding and additional opportunities for expansion of broadband infrastructure, Mackey said.
He said the department is providing information and funding to school system for the purchase of equipment for broadband expansion, and is providing remote/digital curriculum.
“Knowing a challenging school year lies ahead, we want to take this opportunity to say thank you ahead of time,” Mackey said. “Together we all achieve more, and together we will keep our students safe.”