BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama State Department of Education has encouraged school districts to consider delaying the start of school this fall. But first, a plan for how marching bands, summer courses and athletics can prepare ahead of the fall season could be announced in the next two weeks.
“It’s really hard to not get to interact and engage with those kids on a daily basis,” Hoover City Schools teacher Jeff Richardson said.
Richardson is a technology coach and teacher in Hoover. He’s also a father. Navigating the shift from on-campus instruction to e-learning with his students and children, he said, hasn’t been flawless, but it has been beneficial.
“This is helping us develop some resilience in our kids and teach them how to be lifelong, truly be lifelong learners,” he continued.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey told CBS 42 that while plans are still evolving, older students could be back on campus for summer activities with social distancing in place as soon as June 8. Younger students could follow in July.
“We still believe that social distancing protocol are going to be in place for quite some time,” Mackey said.
As for the new school year, students will return to classes on whichever day their local school board decides. Mackey has asked districts to consider starting later than the original August dates. Even then, precautions will be put in place.
Based on case numbers in each community, on-campus visitors could be limited. Those visitors who are allowed in schools may be asked to wear protective gear, even if those in the classroom are not.
“We are not anticipating asking all of our students and teachers to wear masks next fall, I know that’s something in different states we’ve been talking about,” Mackey said. “We don’t think we’ll do that.”
Mackey believes the academic and emotional development lost in the last couple of months will take months to years to make up.
“It may take a couple of years to recover completely the losses that we’ve experienced this past spring and this summer,” he said.
Even as a return to school appears imminent, e-learning may not ever be eliminated.
“Blended learning and online learning is here to stay at a pace we’ve never seen before so there are definitely going to be mixtures between in classroom and online probably from now on,” Mackey explained.
Richardson said that for his students and his own family, getting the green light to return to extra-curricular activities this summer is critically important.
“It’s their passion,” Richardson said. “It’s what they’re pouring themselves into the thing that’s going to lead them to the career they choose.”
Mackey said Alabama is working with five other states to build a road map for going back to school which will be used as a model for schools across the country.
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