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.