County BOE suspends out of state school trips

Posted 3/13/20

The Walker County Board of Education has voted to suspend all out of state school trips until further notice as the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues.

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County BOE suspends out of state school trips


The Walker County Board of Education has voted to suspend all out of state school trips until further notice as the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues.

Board members made the decision toward the end of Thursday evening's school board meeting when nine school trips were on the agenda for board approval — three of which would have been out of state.

"As of right now, travel within state is something that we can still allow, with the understanding that unless something changes," Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood said. "If we get some direction from the state health department or the EMA, that has to change."

Six in-state school trips were approved, including Beta Club State Convention trips to Birmingham later this month; however, the state convention was canceled on Thursday.

In a press conference on Thursday, the Jefferson County Health Department recommended canceling events in central Alabama where more than 500 people would attend, which would have included the Beta convention.

It is unclear if other trips approved by the school board for Carbon Hill High Key Club, Carbon Hill High FBLA, and Oakman High FBLA — all in Birmingham — and Dora High baseball to Orange Beach will go on as scheduled.

The school trips that were not approved by the school board included a Valley Jr. High trip to Washington D.C., a Curry Middle School trip to Memphis, Tennessee, and a Sumiton Middle School trip to Fort Worth, Texas.

Thursday's decision will apply to out of state school trips previously approved by the school board as well.

Hagood says county schools will continue to remain open amid the COVID-19 outbreak for now, but meetings are being held daily with principals and BOE supervisors if a different course of action were necessary.

"We do have an emergency operation plan that does include a pandemic. This is specifically about COVID-19, which is new to everyone," Hagood said. "It seems like things continuously change."

School board officials have been participating in virtual meetings with the state superintendent, the state health department, and the state EMA for guidance on operating schools during the outbreak. 

As of press time, no cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Alabama.

"As of right now, there is no recommendation to close schools or anything of the kind," Hagood said. "We are putting some touches on our emergency operation plan to be a little more specific to this situation."

Hagood added that schools are being fogged as a precautionary measure every afternoon, and handwashing information has been sent home with all students.

"What's going to happen tomorrow? I can't answer that," he said.

Hagood said it is ultimately up to each education agency to decide whether to close schools as a result of COVID-19.