MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Friday marked the end of Montgomery Public Schools’ first week back to virtual-only classwork from home for teachers, students, and even parents.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore switched the system back to virtual learning after several staff members’ deaths in recent days, some of which were related to COVID-19. And she said she plans to keep the learning process in its current form until her staff has the opportunity to get vaccinated.
“We are having discussions with various entities to see if we could get a block of time for our teachers, employees in general, bus drivers,” Moore said of staff vaccination efforts. “Because for us, any school system I would say, because when you stagger it, especially when you have 4,500 employees, it may be May or June before everybody has the opportunity. If we could have a block of time to expedite that we would certainly do that and help our staff to get that vaccine if they want it.”
Moore said a few teachers have managed to secure a vaccination on their own, but for now, MPS staff members have to sign up to get in line for a shot just like everyone else.
Republican state Rep. Reed Ingram, whose district covers parts of Montgomery and Elmore counties, is calling for an end to remote learning. He wants to get students back into the classroom.
“I would encourage everyone out there to contact all the board members and the superintendent and let’s get back into the classroom,” Reed said. “I think it is very important. We are getting further behind. A lot of the other schools in my district are back in. I know there are some schools out there the brick and mortar part isn’t suitable to have a safe environment. Let’s close those schools, keep those schools closed, but let’s open the ones we can be safe in.”
Moore said she wants to make it clear that parents had choices and that even though she believes schools are safe and clean due to their system’s disinfecting measures, a majority of MPS parents told the system they did not want to have their students in classrooms with the virus spreading.
Moore pointed to several MPS surveys in which only about 7,000 students’ parents, or about 25 percent, said they wanted in-person learning at this time.
”We have about 28,000 kids in all,” Moore said. “Three fourths said they wanted to do virtual. So as we got into all the issues with COVID and trying to get a vaccine so that all of our folks could get it, have the opportunity to get it, we can’t make them. But when we get a good read on that, then we will be able to do what I would love to do, have everybody come back face-to-face.”
Moore said when schools were open they were dealing with COVID-19 cases in schools, quarantines, even isolated schools being shut down.
“But I want to put it out there that people had choices even before this vaccine thing came about and only a fourth of them choose face-to-face, the rest have been virtual.”
The superintendent added that MPS, and other school systems, are having a real problem getting substitutes because many of those people are retired and more at risk for the virus. Those that are available are being competed for by multiple systems.