Category: Education

Jefferson County Schools to Go Virtual-Only for First Nine Weeks; Some Student Athletes and Staff Have Tested Positive for COVID

UPDATED — The Jefferson County Board of Education voted Tuesday to begin the 2020-2021 school year Sept. 1 with nine weeks of online education only and no option for traditional classroom learning, as educators and parents continue to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The recommendation came from Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin after weeks of town hall meetings with parents, faculty, staff and other stakeholders, as well as an online survey in which Gonsoulin said 80% of JefCoEd families responded. In that survey, 56% were in favor of online learning, and 44% wanted traditional face-to-face classroom learning.

The board approved the recommendation by a 4-1 vote in Tuesday’s online meeting.

Gonsoulin in a later press conference said that some student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, as have some faculty and staff members, as the schools gear up to reopen. He said no employees will be furloughed because of the return to virtual learning. Read more.

Health Officer Recommends Virtual Classes for Middle and High Schools, No Contact Sports for Now

The Jefferson County health officer is recommending that boards of education in the county “strongly consider” setting up virtual learning for middle and high school students this coming school year and cancelling or postponing contact sports.

“With the current level of viral spread and disease in the community, there is a considerable chance” that the virus will occur among students and school staff, Dr. Mark Wilson said in a letter to school officials. “If classes are not stringently isolated from one another, whole schools may end up having to close.” Read more.

Birmingham-Area Schools’ Plans for Reopening

Schools across the state are deciding when and how to reopen schools in the fall. The state Department of Education set out several options for systems to consider, including in-person learning, virtual learning and blended plans, and said all parents have the option to enroll their children in a virtual learning program. Here is where Birmingham-area schools stand on planning for the start of school. Read more.

Birmingham Schools Announce Online-Only Learning for First 9 Weeks

UPDATED — Dr. Mark Sullivan announced in a Wednesday press conference that all Birmingham City Schools would be starting the school year virtually on Aug. 24. Sullivan, the interim superintendent for BCS, made the announcement with Birmingham Board of Education members.

All learning will be online for the first nine-week grading period. BCS will evaluate the safety of returning to in-person learning after that.

“This decision was not made lightly, but at this juncture I believe it is our best option to assure the quality of education that we have for our students and to maintain a safe, nurturing environment for all of our students,” Sullivan said. Read more.

Birmingham Schools Discuss Plans to Reopen Aug. 24

The Birmingham Board of Education has formed a plan for students to start the new school year, but many questions remain about how learning will look.

The interim superintendent of Birmingham City Schools, Dr. Mark Sullivan, said in a press conference Friday that BCS is in the process of figuring out how to start school while keeping students, parents and teachers healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, school officials are looking at four options. Read more.

Alabama Schools to Open in August, But Parents Have Home Education Option

Updated: 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.
Read more.

55 New Classrooms Added to State’s Award-Winning Pre-K Program

MONTGOMERY — Fifty-five new pre-K classrooms will be added in 25 counties this fall, Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education said Tuesday.

These additional classrooms expand access to the state’s award-winning First Class Pre-K program and are a result of the Legislature recently appropriating an additional $6 million to the department for the 2021 fiscal year. Read more.

BirminghamWatch looked more deeply at Alabama’s pre-K program in a project last year:

First Class in More Than Name Only: Why Alabama’s Preschool Program Is Best in the Country on National Standards