What does that look like?
By SHERRY DIGMON
Two weeks ago, Escambia County Superintendent of Education John Knott announced that public school will open here August 7. Across the state, educators and parents have waited for the announcement – and guidelines – from State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.
Friday, Dr. Mackey held a press conference and gave general guidelines, but not specifics, leaving that up to individual school systems.
To say there is a plethora of questions from educators, parents and students is a colossal understatement.
If students are social distancing, how does seating on the school bus work? What does the classroom look like? The lunchroom? The playground? The football field and the basketball court?
How do you keep a school sanitized?
Will everyone be required to wear masks?
What if there’s a spike in a particular school or a geographic area?
Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Mackey’s plan didn’t give specifics, but every principal, superintendent, and school district now have to address those specifics.
“Dr. Mackey released his plans, but those plans generate questions, and there’s no true working component of what we have to do,” Escambia County Superintendent of Education John Knott said after the press conference. “We’ve got the framework from the state. We’ll have a template for our system. There are still some things we’ve got to get clarifications on from the health department.”
Knott said he anticipates having the draft of a plan in a couple of weeks.
“Our plan will be multi-tiered based on the COVID-19 assessment level,” he said. “The main question we’re asked is will everybody have to wear face masks. That will depend on the level of threat …
“We’ve got to concentrate on making up lost ground [from the close of the 2019-20 school year in March] and keeping kids engaged. There is no perfect answer. We have to be willing to make decisions in the best interest of students and faculty.”
Dr. Mackey’s did answer some questions in his Parent’s [sic] Guide to Alabama’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools. Following are a few of those questions and answers.
- Who will determine if my local campus stays open? Local Boards of Education, upon the recommendation of their superintendents and in consultation with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and/or local public health officials, will make determinations about specific changes in campus status throughout the year.
- What are some things that might be different on campuses? Local school systems set day-to-day policies and procedures. Communications around when and if facial coverings should be worn, for example, will come directly from your local school system. Students may expect to see changes in physical distancing, increased sanitization, and personal hygiene on while on campuses.
- What remote learning opportunities might be available? In Alabama’s model, local school systems are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures around each of these three instructional scenarios. [Those scenarios are 1) Traditional – students attend classes in a traditional, on-campus setting; 2) Remote – Students attend classes “remotely” using a variety of virtual and paper resources. Teachers have regular check-in times and can provide virtual instruction; 3) Blended – Students transition between traditional and remote and back again based on need and preference.] The State has committed to offer remote learning resources through a third-party curriculum developer as well as to expand the high school ACCESS program to all school systems. It is the recommendation of ALSDE [Alabama State Department of Education] that all school systems provide access to both traditional and remote options throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
For Dr. Mackey’s complete Roadmap to Reopening Schools, go to the Alabama State Department of Education website.
When the local school system plan is released, Atmore News will publish that information.