Hagood, Jackson respond to state decision on schools

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Students will not return to public schools in Alabama to finish the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the continued spread of COVID-19.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey made the announcement in a press conference Thursday afternoon, stating that students will do work at home until the completion of the school year, which has been pushed to June 5. 

"This decision has not been made lightly," Ivey said.

With the number of COVID-19 cases climbing to over 500 on Thursday, the announcement did not come as a surprise to superintendents across the state. 

"This is not a surprise to me given the information I've seen recently from the CDC and health department concerning the length of time they feel we need to continue social distancing," Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood told the Daily Mountain Eagle.

Both Hagood and Jasper City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson will participate in a virtual meeting tomorrow morning with superintendents from across the state where Mackey will answer questions and provide guidance to school systems on ways to serve students. 

Mackey said plans will be made to address the needs of each child, including those with special needs. Digital and traditional methods of learning will also be discussed, among a number of other topics.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, public schools across the state have been closed for nearly two weeks. Walker County and Jasper City schools closed on Monday, March 16. 

Since the closure, Jackson said plans have been discussed to meet the needs of all students. 

With Internet access limited across the state, school systems are having to consider a variety of resources to make sure students will have access to educational content and assignments to complete at home. 

"We started just right before school let out in planning for traditional and non-traditional instruction," Jackson told the Eagle. "We haven't made a determination if we're going to do all digital learning because we don't know how many students we have that don't have Internet at home. We're going to try to make a determination on that."

Hagood and Jackson said superintendents will have better guidance on how to proceed after Friday's meeting with the state superintendent.

"Dr. Mackey says he has a plan he will present to use tomorrow morning on moving forward with a non-traditional approach to completing the year. I am looking forward to hearing his plan," Hagood said. "We will take that information and then devise a local plan for our students in Walker County to complete the 2019-20 school year." 

He added, "The good thing, if there is a good thing, is we were not expecting to return until April 6. So that gives us all of next week to begin preparing, communicating, and putting things in place."

Both school systems expect to have a full plan on moving forward implemented by April 6, in just over one week.  

"I think it will grow and evolve as we go along because this is uncharted waters. We will know more as we go along and hopefully get better at what we're doing and how we're doing it. It will be a little bit of a learning curve for us as well," Jackson said. "Like Dr. Mackey said, our teachers are so dedicated to what they do that they will figure out a way of making it work to make sure our kids are getting what they have to have before the end of the year."

The Daily Mountain Eagle will detail the plans for both school systems when announced.