By Erica Thomas, managing editor
ASHVILLE — The St. Clair County Board of Education met on Tuesday, June 30, to discuss plans for the upcoming school year.
Superintendent Mike Howard said meetings to put plans into place will continue over the next couple of weeks, but the school system has decided to offer students three options: Traditional school, hybrid school and virtual school.
The hybrid option offers students some in-classroom time and some virtual classroom time.
The full-time virtual option will be offered through the county’s Virtual Preparatory Academy and that option is available for all St. Clair County students as well as for students in surrounding school districts. Anyone interested in the Virtual Preparatory Academy must apply online.
The start of school is set for Wednesday, Aug. 12. Howard said operations for each school will depend on how many students take part in online education.
“It could vary depending on the school but teachers will be required to have a virtual presence and to help any student who is online and not in the school, traditionally,” Howard said.
The superintendent said the coronavirus pandemic has caused educators to face ever-changing obstacles.
“It’s going to be a challenging year for everybody,” Howard said. “I encourage everybody to remember that the word of the year is ‘flexibility,'” said Howard. “We all have to be flexible.”
Employees will be required to wear a face cover if they are unable to maintain a 6 feet distance from others in the classroom. Employees will also be required to wear a face cover in common areas, including hallways. Students will be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks, according to Howard.
As more recommendations and guidelines are handed down by Gov. Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama State Department of Education, Howard said more changes should be expected.
“It’s basically shooting a plane with a slingshot,” explained Howard. “From 30,000 feet. It’s kind of like the target we’re hitting right now. You make a plan and it changes 10 times before you make a new plan, so it’s very challenging right now.”
Howard said his goal is to plan ahead and consider all scenarios. He said as long as the school system makes the best decisions day-by-day, the students will benefit, even in a trying time.
“We’re going to get through it,” said Howard. “We’ll survive and we’re going to provide a great education for our students.”
School system leaders have several meetings planned over the next few weeks. After the BOE makes plans based on the ALSDE’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools, school system administrators will meet with members of the community. Parents, community leaders and local lawmakers have been invited to voice concerns and to give input.
After hearing from the community, the superintendent will meet with each school administrator to outline specific operations for schools.
You can watch the full St. Clair County Schools June Board meeting below.