Governor, State Superintendent of Education: schools closed for remainder of year; education to continue by “alternative methods”

State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey speaks as Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris look on.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a supplemental State of Emergency notice as she and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey announced that all schools will remain closed through the remainder of the school year. Mackey stated that online and take-home resources will be used to continue students’ education and that the school year has been extended from mid-May until June 5 to give schools more time to deal with the changes brought on by the closure. He also confirmed that all sports and other extracurricular activities are canceled, though he expressed hope that schools might be able to hold special events like graduation ceremonies and proms after June 5.

Ivey, after noting her earlier declaration and the continuing increase of cases, told the state, “Today, I have signed a Supplemental State of Emergency that will allow Dr. Mackey and his team to provide instruction from home, starting April 6, for the remainder of the school year. Now, this decision has not been made lightly; it’s been made with a tremendous amount of concern and discussion.”

“I cannot stress to our viewers enough: we must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus. The public health orders are not suggestions. They’ve been put in place to save your life.” 

“Folks, this is for real. This is a deadly situation, and your attention is important, to pay attention, and the stay at home if possible directive will be the only way we can mitigate the spread of this virus. This does not mean you stay at home and then invite all your friends to come over for a visit; ‘stay at home’ means to limit interaction as much as you can with other people.”

“Nothing can replace the interaction between the teacher and the students in the classroom setting; however, access to high quality instruction is crucial for our students to maintain a competitive edge academically. Certainly, we will be dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 in our health and economy, but the one thing we want to prevent from happening is a tremendous slide in our students’ learning and student achievement.”

“Students who do not have quality enrichment in summer lose proficiency. We recognize this will be the same situation, but compounded, if we do not find a way to be flexible with our classroom instruction. So, we’re doing the very best we can with what we have to deal with.

“We’re also doing everything possible to ensure those with special needs, who have an IEP 5-0 plan, receive accommodations, and that these accommodations most closely approximate the therapy and special services they receive in a normal school day.”

“We’re doing the best we can with the things we have to maintain the delivery of high-quality instruction through alternative methods. And all of this will be done with a focus on equity, to ensure that we are calling upon every resource to close the gaps that we can for every student.”

“I believe that today’s announcement, more than ever, echoes the motto of Dr. Mackey: ‘Every child, every chance, every day.’”

Mackey added, “This health crisis we face is unprecedented in our time. We’ve never had to shut down so many schools for such a long period of time. And yet, Governor Ivey’s leadership has been stable and strong, and she’s made clear that the health and safety of our students are paramount, and they must be our first priority. And her order today makes that continue to be a first priority.”

“Now, as the Governor has said, we are concerned about that long summer slide that may ensue. We’re concerned about the lack of internet in some homes, and we’re concerned about all the things that our parents and teachers and administrators across the state have brought to our attention, and they are concerned about.”

“What I want to assure our parents and students, teachers out there is that we are working diligently with our local superintendents and their teams to make sure that there is a plan in place for every school, for every child, to continue their learning, to close out their school year, to graduate our seniors on time or very close to on time, and by the end of this summer they will be moving on either into that next grade or moving on to their step after high school.” 

“I appreciate your diligence. I appreciate the patience out there of all the people in our state as we deal with this unprecedented public health crisis and as schools respond to it. But most of all, I appreciate the strong leadership of our Governor, who has continued to make sure that we know that her top priority is the health and safety of our students, their families, our teachers and staff, and all the people across the great state of Alabama.”

After remarks by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, Ivey concluded the press conference by telling parents, “This is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children to get a little bit closer than you had time in the past. The Superintendent is going to be working very closely with you to be sure that you and your children have all the materials they need to be successful in their school year. So, thank you again very much, and may God bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”

Local superintendents respond

After the conference, The Tribune received statements from County School Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette and City School Superintendent Dr. Susan Patterson. 

Barnette wrote, “I was afraid that this may happen, but I was praying that this situation would improve and we would be able to return to traditional school sometime in May. That way we could have some sense of closure for this school year. However, everyone’s health must come first.” 

“We will put together a plan and educate our students. Hopefully, we will be able to hold graduation ceremonies sometime in June. We love our students and we will work hard to give all of our students the best education possible.”

Patterson shared a letter she sent out to City School Board members:

Governor Kay Ivey and State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey announced that students will not be returning to traditional school during the 2019-20 school year in an effort to protect our students, staff and all Alabamians as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19. Cullman City Schools is well prepared to transition our student learning and we are actively engaged in the development of a plan that will ensure the continued success of our students. 

We will be receiving additional guidance from the Alabama State Department of Education and will wait until we have that guidance to complete our plan. Our primary focus will be to ensure that students have the necessary resources to effectively move their learning forward. This will include, but not be limited to, quality meals through our child nutrition program, access to learning devices and programs, and distance learning options. 

It is critical that we all do our part in adhering to the social distancing and other guidelines being emphasized by the CDC and ADPH to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please be on the lookout for more communication via our school system’s mobile app, phone call system, and social media platforms.

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