From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced during a press conference on Thursday, March 26, 2020, that students in the state will not return to the classroom for the remainder of the academic year as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state and the nation.
Schools will instead finish the remainder of the 2019-20 school year online, beginning April 6.
“This decision has not been made lightly,” Ivey said. “It’s been made with a tremendous amount of concern and discussion. We must be serious about eliminating the spread of this virus. The public health orders are not suggestions. They have been put in place to save your life.”
Ivey announced during the press conference that she has supplemented her previous state of emergency order with the following language:
Beginning at the start of school on April 6, 2020, all public K-12 schools shall implement a plan to complete the 2019-2020 school year using alternate methods of instruction as established by the State Superintendent of Education. Local school districts shall make staffing decisions and determinations related to access to school buildings in accordance with all applicable public health orders and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
For the foreseeable future, schools will be unable to force students to complete any school work or assign grades until April 6.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey added that the Department of Education will work with individual school systems to assist with the transition.
“We are working diligently with our local superintendents and their teams to make sure there is a plan in place for every school,” Mackey said. “For every child to continue their learning to close out their school year, to graduate our seniors on time or very close to on-time, and by the end of this summer they will be moving on either into that next grade or moving on to their next step after high school.”
The academic year will now end on June 5, which is about a week removed from when most districts would typically end their school years, Mackey said.
The closure of schools also means the end of the high school spring sports season. Yet, Mackey added that other activities such as proms and graduations could still be held later during the summer.
“I’m truly sorry, and I know Gov. Ivey and Dr. Harris are sorry that students are losing so many of the fun activities of their senior year that they really count on, but we have to do what is the most important and pressing thing and that is protecting the health and safety of our community,” Mackey said.
This news follows the continued rise in positive coronavirus cases throughout the state.
As of Thursday afternoon, the number of positive cases have surpassed 500, with one reported death.
Ivey and state health officials on Wednesday confirmed that a person in Jackson County died from the COVID-19 disease. The patient had underlying health problems and passed away in a facility outside the state of Alabama, the Health Department said. The Jackson County Commission said the person was a part-time employee at the county courthouse and they are having the area cleaned before employees return to work.
“I continue to urge everyone that this virus is real, it is deadly, and we should continue to maintain social-distancing as much as possible,” Ivey said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “Together, we will overcome these challenges and difficult days.”