Alabama teachers concerned about heading back to school under COVID-19 pandemic

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Friday, the Alabama Department of Education will unveil their plan to reopen schools in the fall. S

The announcement will layout guidance on basic school reopenings, but will not be a list of mandates, according to the department. State School Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey will be joined by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris to make the announcement.

The state has about 700,000 students in about 1,400 schools.  

Earlier this month, the department said they were exploring the idea of a virtual learning option. Mackey said this would be an option for local school districts to offer. However, one of the challenge areas for the state will be access to broadband internet. State leaders have acknowledged this has been a problem for years.

“We are working closely with public health and looking at the CDC guidelines, World Health Organization, filtering those through the Alabama Public Health Department and what we see on the ground here,” Mackey said.

Gov. Kay Ivey closed public and private schools in Alabama back on March 19 to slow the spread of coronavirus. After April 5, local school districts were given permission to reopen buildings to staff as long as the state’s health orders, including social distancing, were followed. Following that, many schools began assigning online options or sending education packets home to students. 

As the state braces for the superintendent’s announcement, some teachers tell us they feel unprepared returning under a pandemic.

“Everything that we’ve seen before we knew what to do, we knew how to clean we knew how to take care of the germs we knew how to keep them away,” said Tara Nixon, a veteran teacher with 13 years experience.

Nixon said teachers are used to dealing with sicks kids, but this is new territory.

“As a whole, we have so many kids carry so many germs that we become immune to, but so many of us are not immune to this,” she said.

As Alabama’s coronavirus numbers spike, it could be troubling news for schools, according to education advocates.

“I think it would be insane for us to open up school buildings,” said Richard Franklin, president of the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers. “Can you imagine what the numbers will be?” 

The same concerns were shared with CBS 42 in an anonymous letter, which stated “it is our responsibility, as educators, to keep our students, their families and our colleagues safe.”

The Alabama Education Association (AEA) released a list of expectations for reopening schools.

“It is imperative that AEA speak up for the thousands of students and educators in Alabama. As the largest education association in the state, we stand ready to support the needs of students, educators, and communities during this critical time of planning to reopen Alabama schools and will continue to ensure the input of educators is part of the reopening process. AEA has a strong presence in every local school district in Alabama and we will closely monitor each system during this process while continuing to advocate for the safety of students and educators.”

Alabama Education Association

The school reopening plan will be announced Friday at 10 a.m. CBS 42 will have coverage of the announcement on-air and online at CBS42.com.


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