A message from Gov. Kay Ivey and State Board of Education Superintendent Eric Mackey:
“This decision has not been made lightly. It’s been made with a tremendous amount of concern and discussion,” she said. “We must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus. The public health orders are not suggestions. They have been put in place to save your life.”
Despite the extended closure, districts are still expected to implement a plan — still in the works — to finish the school year through alternative methods of instruction, Ivey said. That instruction is expected to begin April 6.
“What I want to ensure our parents, students and teachers is that we are working diligently with our local superintendents and their teams to make sure there is a plan in place for every student and every child,” Mackey said during the press conference.
Ivey the state department will work to ensure special needs students with an Individualized Education Plan continue to, “receive accommodations and they most closely accommodate what they would receive in a normal school day.”
When it comes to internet access, Mackey said there are some districts that are able to provide virtual learning opportunities to all of their students, but the vast majority cannot.
Some regions within the state have poor broadband access and others have impoverished populations without high speed internet in the home or access to a device, so the group discussed other ways to correspond with those students, Mackey said.
Mackey formed an 11-person task force to determine whether or not students could return to school on the first announced reopening date, ultimately recommending to Ivey that they should not. The group has been working on a plan on a way to address the different barriers students will face with school out, as well as ensure all qualifying seniors will still graduate on time or within the first week of June.
Mackey said it is unlikely that the department would ask all schools to start next year earlier.
“It might be a little bit earlier for some, but most of our superintendents and business leaders we’ve talked to prefer if we try to keep as much of the summer months of June and July open as possible,” he said previously.
While ensuring students receive their education is the No. 1 priority, he added earlier, “Public schools live and die by the Education Trust Fund, which is primarily funded by individual income taxes and sales tax, so we want to get the economy up and running again as quickly as possible.”
When school starts next fall, Mackey said the first priority would be to begin assessing kindergarten to third-grade students to see the size of their summer slide.
The state is considering the last day of the school year as June 5. Extracurricular activities such as band, recitals and sports are over. Prom and graduation ceremonies, Mackey said, are postponed at this time.
Last week, Gov. Ivey issued a public health order closing beaches, bars and dine-in restaurants. Gatherings of 10 or more people in a non-work environment or non-work gatherings of any size where people cannot maintain 6-feet of separation are prohibited. The states runoff election has also been postponed and the Alabama Legislature is not expected to return to work for a few weeks.