Montgomery Public Schools superintendent addresses COVID-19 closures

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 8:48 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Hundreds of Montgomery public school students are returning to the classroom this week after having to be sent home due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Within one week, seven MPS schools had to close their doors, leaving students quarantined at home for two weeks.

Close contact among students is what MPS Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said forced the closure of seven of the school system’s 52 facilities.

“Most of the close contacts and the actual confirmed cases actually happen outside of school,” said Moore.

“Although it can eventually be about staff, in this case it was more of in the number of students that were involved,” Moore went on to say.

After a student tests positive for COVID-19 or encounters someone who has, Moore said it falls on the responsibility of school nurses to track down the number of students exposed. If the number of exposed students, and in some cases staff, reaches about 50% of the student population, MPS will make the decision on whether or not to close a school.

“If it’s at the 50% mark we then decide that is our trigger to close down the whole school,” Moore said. “50% of the children may not be involved at all, but once we hit that halfway mark we make that distinction between staying in session or allowing them go home for a minute.”

While the schools are closed, teachers will provide students with assignment instructions and other important information related to schoolwork for the two-week quarantine period.

When asked about the status on devices for students, Moore said 99% of students have the ability to access school virtually from home.

“Unless there’s an issue with broadband and they live in a community where it’s not available, but even with that we bought MiFi devices,” Moore said.

Moore said social distancing and mask-wearing has and continues to be enforced, as well as deep cleaning and disinfecting. Moore said the possibility for more school closures will continue to ensure the safety of students and staff, but they are preventable.

Moore said the majority of cases happen off campus, which is why she is calling on everyone to take the proper steps outside of school to help stop the spread.

“When the children are not with us, it would be great if everyone would continue to keep them safe as well,” Moore said.

Moore said they do not have an exact number for how many teachers and staff across the district have been vaccinated for COVID-19. She said it’s not a requirement for teachers and staff to release that information.

When asked about vaccine mandates for teachers, Moore said that may become a reality at some point but right now it is not, and that it would not be up to them to decide.

MPS is encouraging all teachers and students 12 years old and up to get vaccinated.

Moore said the goal is to remain in person for the remainder of the school year unless told otherwise.

“There may be at some point in the future a hiatus of a couple of weeks or a month where we all have to be virtual. We’ll get that information sent to us from either the state department or the governor,” Moore said.

Dunbar-Ramer School and Brewbaker Middle School reopened Monday. Southlawn Middle School opened today, and Capitol Heights Middle School will reopen tomorrow.

McIntyre Comprehensive Academy will reopen Sept. 16.

Carr Middle School and Park Crossing Middle School will reopen Sept. 20.

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