MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that the state’s public school students will not return to their classrooms this academic year.
When a state of emergency was signed on March 19, state and school officials had hoped to get students back into the classroom by April 6. But with the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread topping 500 confirmed case in Alabama and growing, it became clear that date was no longer feasible.
“This decision has not been made lightly,” Ivey said. “It’s been made with a tremendous amount of concern and discussion. I cannot stress to our viewers enough, we must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus. "
Now, Ivey is giving schools permission to provide instruction to students at home through the remainder of the year.
“Nothing can replace the interaction between the teacher and the students in the classroom setting,” the governor said. “However, access to high quality instruction is crucial for our students to maintain a competitive edge academically. But the one thing we want to prevent from happening is a tremendous slide in our students’ learning and student achievement.”
So Ivey has instructed each of the state’s public K-12 schools to implement a plan to complete the 2019-2020 school year using “alternate methods of instruction" which include online learning or packets that teachers will prepare for students to use at home.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey called the closures “unprecedented,” adding “we’ve never had to shut down so many schools for such a long period of time.”
Mackey said he and others have concerns about the “summer slide,” the lack of internet in some students’ homes, and other issues, but reassured everyone the department is working is local systems “to make sure there is a plan in place for every school, for every child, to continue their learning, to close out their school year."
Mackey said ALSDE will work to graduate all seniors as close to on time as possible and to ensure all other students are prepared to go to the next grade level. He’s aiming for the school year to be completed by June 5 instead of May 15.
Ivey also said the state would do everything possible to ensure those with special needs who have an IEP receive accommodations that closely approximate the special services they receive in a normal school day, adding there will be a focus on equity.
Ivey’s order lets local school districts make decisions about staffing and access to school buildings in compliance with public health orders and CDC/ADPH recommendations.
The governor’s decision also marks the end of extracurricular activities such as sports and band for the school year.
“Public health orders put in place are not suggestions,” the governor went on. “They have been put in place to save your life.”
Gov. Ivey, Supt. Mackey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris answered several questions after their prepared remarks.
“We’re doing all we can to close those gaps. And we certainly recognize there has to be an alternative method of getting instruction materials to those student that do not have broadband access. And that is being arranged with the superintendents getting to the student daily what we call correspondent packages, coursework to do at home”
“I will continue to work with Dr. Harris to determine the best course. Right now is not the time to order a shelter in place. We’ve got to have our businesses operating.”
- Distance learning through online
- Will also able to offer take home packets
- Alabama public library system has enhanced its hours
- Alabama Public Television will broadcast courses at different times of the day.
“I truly am sorry, and I know the governor is sorry, and I know Dr. Harris is that students are losing so many of the fun activies of their senior year that they really count on, but we just have to do what is the most important and pressing this and that is protecting the health and safety of our community.”