Schools around the state have been closed since Gov. Kay Ivey announced a state of emergency on March 19 and those schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year as announced by Ivey on March 26.
Ivey announced the decision to keep schools closed in a joint news conference streamed live to the internet alongside State Superintendent Eric Mackey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
“We had hoped at that time we would be able to welcome our students back to the classroom, however, the virus continues to spread,” Ivey said. “Today, I am signing a supplemental state of emergency that will allow Dr. Mackey and his team to provide instruction from home for the remainder of the school year. This decision has not been made lightly.”
Ivey said that it was important to prevent “tremendous slides” in student learning achievement and that those with special needs receive accommodations that resemble those received in the classroom as closely as possible.
“Beginning at the start of school on April 6, 2020, all public K-12 schools shall implement a plan to complete the 2019-2020 school year using alternate school methods of instruction as established by the State Superintendent of Education,” Ivey said. “Local school districts shall make staffing decisions and determinations related to access to school buildings in accordance with all applicable public health orders and the recommendations of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.”
Dr. Mackey said that those students and areas that have adequate broadband will be able to use online courses and that students that don’t have adequate broadband will be able to receive “paper packets” with teaching materials.
“We have different levels of capacity all across the state (for broadband),” Dr. Mackey said. “One of the things we are going to be able to offer is distance learning with online learning digital platforms, as well as take home packets where teachers make copies and send home.”
Dr. Mackey also said that the Alabama Public Library System will extend its hours for the homework hotline and Alabama Public TV will be broadcasting courses at different times during the day and for different age groups and subjects.
Dr. Mackey said that he and his team would be meeting with superintendents on March 27 and follow up next week on the plans moving forward.
Dr. Mackey said that the plan is to ensure that all students that are on path to graduate will stay on that path and that students don’t fall far behind in their studies. He also confirmed that the remainder of spring sports season for the 2019-2020 school year have been cancelled, but said that the state believes that schools will be able to hold graduations and proms during the summer.
Until April 6, all learning will be optional, which means no students will be required to do graded work until then.
Dr. Mackey also said that the end of the school year – which was originally planned as May 22 – will be extended to June 5 to give students and schools the opportunity for a few more days in case students have fallen behind.
While Ivey once again said that there were no plans to issue a “shelter-in-place” order, she emphasized the need for residents to follow guidelines for social distancing.
“We must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus,” Ivey said. “The public health orders are not suggestions, they have been put in place to save your life.
“Folks, this is for real. This is a deadly situation and it is important to pay attention. Stay at home means to limit interaction as much as you can with other people. Nothing can replace the interaction between the student and teacher in a classroom setting, however, access to high quality instruction is crucial to maintain a competitive edge.”