Our education system, statewide and locally, is in an uproar right now due to the failure of those who lead actually taking the bull by the horns and leading.
We’ll begin with the failure of the state. On March 6, Gov. Kay Ivey established a task force chaired by Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health, to deal with cases of COVID-19 being reported in Alabama. Dr. Eric Mackey, state superintendent, sent out the first guidance to all public schools to deal with possible cases in the schools.
On March 13, Dr. Mackey announced schools would be closed from March 19-April 6 followed up with orders to remain closed until April 30 then extended to May 22 based on the ADPH and Gov. Ivey’s “Safer at Home” directive.
In June, the Alabama State Department of Education released the Roadmap to Opening Schools, a guidance document, not a mandate, nor an exhaustive list of every action a school system or school leader would need to return to school. Local boards of education, upon the recommendation of their superintendents and in consultation with ADPH and/or local public health officials, would determine whether and how campuses could reopen safely for the 2020-2021 school year based on the status of the virus in their local community.
On July 29, superintendents were informed the ADPH would have a Toolkit for K-12 Schools webinar on Aug. 4. The Toolkit first targeted superintendents as an overview and the rest of the session targeted nurses, principals and other school level leaders.
On Aug. 3, an update from Dr. Mackey included information on how students could obtain internet access as well as how teachers could use Schoology and SchoolsPLP for remote learning. After the first seven days of school, teachers are still having trouble uploading lessons to these platforms and students are unable to log in.
At no time when issuing these updates did Dr. Mackey take control of the situation. He only issued “guidances” for the superintendents of the systems in the state.
Let’s move on to the local level. Enterprise Superintendent Greg Faught announced schools would reopen on Aug. 6. Coffee County Schools Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth scheduled the start of school for Aug. 10. Daleville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Stamps delayed the start of DCS to Aug. 28.
Why in the world didn’t Enterprise and Coffee County schools delay the start of school until the end of August? That would have given the administrators and teachers time to get curriculum planned and the kinks worked out of the remote learning that would have been beneficial to all with the change issued from ADPH.
On July 7 Faught released the school’s plan for returning for the 2020-2021 school year. Included in the plan was a list of five “principles” that would guide the school’s planning, decision-making and execution of plans to return to school. They were: we will be transparent, we will be equitable, we will listen, we will put safety first and we will be decisive.
The plan has failed miserably on several points.
We will be transparent. For unknown reasons, Faught has decided to communicate with his administrators, teachers and parents through the local media. We appreciate being given the “heads up,” but we’re not the ones who should have information of this kind first. ECS has a way to notify everyone associated with the system, including parents, when school is cancelled for a weather day. Why hasn’t this been used to inform everyone when changes are made? Communication? Apparently non-existent between the superintendent and the rest of the system.
We will be equitable. When the plan was released in July to reopen, students who remained home for distance learning would not be permitted to participate in any extracurricular activities, which includes band, choral music and athletics. How is this equitable when home-schooled students are allowed to participate in these activities? According to the Alabama High School Athletic Association By-Laws, Eligibility Rule, Section 9 Academic Rule, students in a nontraditional virtual or remote learning program are eligible to participate as long as all other eligibility requirements are met. In defense of the decision made by ECS, if a parent chooses to home school, that’s one thing. If a parent chooses virtual learning because they don’t want their child exposed to other students who could possibly have the virus, why would they want them to participate in extracurricular activities and be around a whole group of students?
We will listen. Hopefully this will happen because there are a lot of unhappy parents who are planning to attend the next school board meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. in the board room at the Central Office. Anyone wanting to address the board should go on the ECS website at https://www.enterpriseschools.net/Page/5015, click on the link for a Request to Appear Before the Board and fill out the form. This has to be done at least 24 hours in advance. If you have a board member’s phone number, call them and voice your concerns.
We will put safety first. We have no doubt about this from what we’ve heard from those associated with the schools from the shutdown of water fountains to taking temperatures and sending students home in quarantine when they show symptoms.
We will be decisive. Let’s hold the grade on that until after the next board meeting.
The ALDSE and ADPH have had 4 ½ months to come up with a plan. The last pandemic this country faced was the Spanish Flu, which lasted from early March 1918 until August 1919. Granted, there was a smaller population in the United States, far fewer medical tools to draw from and a lack of quarantines that contributed to so many deaths. But if anyone thought this was going to go away in a few months, they had their head stuck in the sand.
It will be interesting to see how the Enterprise Board of Education members respond Tuesday night.