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Auburn awarded $3 million grant to fund climate change education

Eddie Burkhalter



Auburn University has been awarded a $3 million grant to help fund climate change resilience education for graduate students. 

Less than 10 percent of the applications to the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship get funded, said Karen McNeal, associate professor of geosciences at Auburn and the principal investigator on the project, speaking to APR on Tuesday. 

Auburn is the only school in the state to have been awarded the grant, which will teach graduate students climate research and place them working directly with stakeholders to build resilience to climate change impacts. 

“Climate-related natural hazards and disaster losses are escalating in the United States and are often billion-dollar events (e.g. hurricanes, severe storms, inland flooding, crop freezes, droughts and wildfires),” according to  Auburn’s application to the National Science Foundation. “This project is aimed at training the next generation of scientists and leaders who can help build resilient communities that are prepared for, can effectively respond to, and can quickly recover from damaging hazard events.”

Auburn’s grant award comes after the university’s department of geosciences in the fall of 2018, began the Earth System Science program, an interdisciplinary doctoral program related to climate change. 

McNeal said that research conducted by students will be informed by stakeholders, creating partnerships between scientists and those being impacted by climate change. 

“A city manager, an emergency response manager or a farmer who wants more information related to climate, so that they’re more resilient when a drought or a hurricane hits,” McNeal said of the kinds of stakeholders that might become a part of the program. 

It’s the sort of work graduate students might not otherwise get, McNeal explained, as they’ll be able to work directly with the segments of society facing climate change and use what they’re learning in real time. 


The grant will allow Auburn faculty to work for five years with approximately 85 graduate students who come from varied fields of study, including biosystems engineering, geosciences, rural sociology, forestry, crop and soil and environmental sciences, among others. 

Teaching students how to communicate about climate change is an important part of the program as well, McNeal said. Typical graduate students become good communicators about science on a technical level, but communicating that knowledge with the public is another matter. 

Students will take a science communication class and have hands-on experience communicating about the science and about ways to help mitigate it with stakeholders and with the public. 

“We just want to help the state and the region be prepared, and one way to do that is to help make these partnerships,” she said.



Alabama community colleges online for rest of semester

Eddie Burkhalter



Alabama’s community colleges will continue with online classes throughout the remainder of the spring semester, and commencement activities are postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Alabama Community College System announced the extension of online-only classes Friday.

College campuses remain closed to public gatherings. 

“Every decision concerning the operations of Alabama’s community colleges is being made with the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the forefront,” said ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker in a statement. “While we couldn’t have imagined what this semester would look like for our colleges, I am incredibly grateful for the creativity, resilience, and commitment to learning shown by our faculty, staff, and students during this difficult time.”

ACCS colleges will offer summer courses, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be conducted in-person or online.

ACCS is awaiting guidance from local, state and federal officials before making that determination.

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Resources for parents educating kids at home

Brandon Moseley



Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced what most people were already expecting and that is the children will not return to school in the 2019-2020 school year.

The responsibility for education now falls entirely to the parents of the state.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has led the Governor to close the schools to protect the health of the children. The move protects the children of Alabama from catching COVID-19, but it creates enormous challenges for their education. The schools are supposed to reopen sometime in August, but even that is in doubt at this point.

While no one wants Alabama students and their families to get sick, they also need to learn the skills that they were supposed to be learning in school. Eight to nine weeks of instruction are now effectively lost for all time.

This is a challenge for parents who want their children to be all they can be, but it also allows parents to take more control of their children’s education than the public school format allowed.

The Bible can serve as a reader. That might not be ideal; but reading is like learning to shoot a basketball, hit a baseball, or ride a bike it takes practice. Set time aside every day for reading. Whether the internet is available or not, reading out loud is a useful way to improve a child’s reading skills and allows the parent to gauge the child’s skill level.

Another time tested resource is the Dick and Jane reading series. Generations of children have learned how to read with this widely available series of books that are available in almost any bookstore and at some Wal-Marts.

There are a plethora of books available for beginning readers. The best known are the Dr. Seuss books. There is more information as well as activities at their website:


Math is an area where parents probably need to focus efforts on. The Alabama public schools are notoriously bad at teaching math. In recent standardized testing of fourth and eighth graders, Alabama scored last among the 50 states.

Math facts are best memorized and flashcards and math bingo games are useful resources to have to improve basic math skills. Multiplication, addition, subtraction, and division tables can all be printed out and written and rewritten over and over again. Counting out money and making change is another skill that can easily be taught at home and at the grocery store.

There are also online resources available including:

As children advance into higher grades and study: long multiplication, long division, integers, fractions, the metric system, geometry, algebra etc. is probably takes a textbook. Those can also be bought as e-books and as workbooks. There are many online resources also available.

Many students need speech and language therapy, which they get at school. Unfortunately, the children aren’t in school so don’t have access to those resources. This site provides a list of links to those services to children that need them.

NASA is providing educational education plans for kids on their website during the forced national economic shutdown.

Teaching a love and appreciation for history also sharpens reading comprehension skills and makes for better citizens. There are many history resources available.

The Georgia Public Broadcasting System has resources for teaching Black History.

The Alabama Bicentennial Page has Alabama History resources.

Alabama Public Television has many resources to help parents transition to becoming parent and teacher on their website.

Teaching your children yourself also adds the benefit of being able to teach and share your faith. Many Churches offer online resources for parents eager to educate their children. With most Churches having shut down their Sunday schools and Parish Schools of Religion (PSR)for fear of COVID-19 the only religious education about faith and God will likely come from the parents during this time.

Catholic Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville recommends for children: “Teaching Catholic Kids.”

The site has arts, crafts and activities for home & school inspired by faith as well as a long list of links for parents looking for lessons and activities for their children as they shelter in place.

Alabama based EWTN also has resources for parents during these times on the website.

Landmark Baptist Church is offering their own home school curriculum.

Gov. Ivey has ordered Alabama’s many school systems to come up with a plan for the home learning program by April 6. What that will be and what value that will have, if any, no one knows at this time; but will likely vary wildly from system to system. E-Learning would be one option, but many Alabamians do not have broadband; thus the fear is that by adopting an E-learning program would result in the haves – those with broadband and a caring parent excelling while the have not – those with no broadband and a lackadaisical uninvolved parent would fall further behind.

No one knows when school will begin and what that will look like when it does happen, but it will take a commitment on the part of parents and students to continue to build educational achievement during this crisis.

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Schools will remain closed for the remainder of year, in-home instruction planned

Eddie Burkhalter



Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that schools statewide would remain out for the remainder of the school year as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Ivey declared a state of emergency on March 19 and closed schools through April 6.

“We had hoped at that time we would be taking these cautious steps and would be able to welcome our students back into the classroom,” Ivey said at a press conference. “However, the virus continues to spread.”

Ivey on Thursday issued a supplemental state of emergency declaration that will allow the state Department of Education to let children finish schoolwork from home beginning April 6.

“This decision has not been made lightly. It’s been made with a tremendous amount of concern and discussion,” Ivey said. “I cannot stress to our viewers enough. We must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus.”

Ivey said public health orders are not suggestions, and they are put into place to save lives.

Staying at home is important, Ivey said, and “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,” Ivey said.


State school superintendent Erick Mackey said the health crisis we face is unprecedented in our time, and that there is concern about the “long summer slide” when students might not retain previous lessons, and a lack of internet in some homes.

Mackey said state officials are working with local school systems to mitigate those problems

Asked about a lack of access to broadband for many families, Ivey said “we’re doing all we can to close the gaps.”

Work is underway to ensure those students without internet access can get take-home coursework they can do from home, Ivey said.

Mackey said Alabama Public Television will also be broadcasting courses for different age levels and subjects, and there is an additional help for students who may have questions about homework.

“The Alabama public library system has enhanced its hours for the homework hotline, so people who are working through their packet, if they get questions and they get stumped on answers, they can call the homework hotline,” Mackey said.

The official end of the school year will be extended to June 5 to give students more time to get schoolwork in, Mackey said.

All extracurricular activities such as sports and band, are over for the year, however, he said.

When it starts back in the fall, Mackey sad student assessments will be done and schools will immediately begin addressing any “summer slide” deficiencies.

“Tomorrow morning we’ll be working with superintendents in a general meeting, and then we’ll be following up next week with each and every superintendent to help them develop the most meticulous and best design plan for their individual community,” Mackey said.

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Confirmed COVID-19 case at Irondale Community School

Eddie Burkhalter



The Irondale Community School has a confirmed case of COVID-19, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin Jr. announced Saturday. 

In a letter posted to the City of Irondale’s Facebook page, Gonsoulin said an individual at the school tested positive for the virus, and that students and employees at the school may have been exposed.   

The last day of class for the school was March 13.

Gonsoulin wrote that it’s unknown when or where the person contracted the virus. 

He asked that anyone who experiences symptoms of COVID-19 call their physician or the Jefferson County Health Department. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough.

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