State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey released a roadmap to reopening Alabama schools on June 26, largely leaving decisions on individual school plans up to local school boards and superintendents.
Mackey said reactions to the state guidelines have been favorable.
“The response has been very positive. People like having some local discretion and yet also having some true guidance from the State Department of Education,” he said.
Mackey says local leaders have been asking ‘what if’ questions regarding the guidelines in the reopening plan.
“We have three webinars over the next few days to help local principals and curriculum directors fill in their understanding so they can best help make the roadmap happen on the ground,” he said.
Despite positive reception, many difficult barriers lie ahead for students and staff, especially as school closures and quarantines may occur only in certain parts of the state.
“There’s no questions we’re going to have to deal with large gaps in learning and achievement over the next few months,” Mackey said. “There will be additional gaps if we do have to have large scale closures over the coming years, so we’ve done what we can to try to mitigate that, but I have said and I truly believe it will take us 2-3 years to really get beyond the impacts of coronavirus on schools.”
Beyond increased stress for students and teachers with new learning formats, Mackey says the focus on health and sanitary measures to combat coronavirus adds pressure to school nurses.
“We are very worried about the increased burden on our nurses. We are seeking some additional money to hire more nurses across the state and also to extend nurse contracts,” Mackey said.
The problem, however, is even if granted the money, Mackey says they are unsure of how many nurses are available for hire due to their increased demand in the healthcare system.
With all the uncertainty during this difficult time, what parents and guardians can be certain of according to Mackey is the support and encouragement of their students' teachers.
“Teachers care deeply about the children that come into their classrooms. They cared deeply about those children before COVID-19 and they still do now and if anything, those teachers are even more concerned about the health and welfare and social wellbeing and development of those children,” Mackey said. “You should continue to have faith in the same people who have loved and cared for your children pre-COVID-19.”