It’s no secret school will look different once fall rolls around due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What school will actually look like remains in question.
Based on Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement to allow schools to reopen and upon recommendations from state superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford is in the planning stages of just what school might look like come August — and it likely will not be a traditional setup.
Lankford said summer school will begin June 6 for students in seventh grade and above and in July, younger students will have the option of learning labs to help close any educational gaps created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“My thought is, ‘Let’s prepare or get a practice run for what it looks like in the building with these smaller groups prior to reopening permanently to everyone,’” Lankford said.
During summer school classes, students will be taught in groups of 10 to 12 and maintain social distancing based on Mackey’s requirements for Alabama schools.
“For summer school, we don’t know how many students that will be but we’ll probably look at a rank order based on mid-year standardized test scores and how they finished up, who needs that service the most,” Lankford said. “We’d like to bring those kids back for 70 hours between June 6 and Aug. 6 but we don’t have a definitive plan.”
With many parents and students still uncomfortable returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms facing the unknown of COVID-19, Lankford said the board and faculty will be creating virtual learning opportunities.
“We are also looking at virtual learning opportunities for next year, which we were in preparation for whether or not kids are comfortable coming back under the current COVID-19 situation,” Lankford said.
Lankford said the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) will release further guidance about this and he will tweak his plan accordingly.
In terms of recommendations recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lankford understands these are not requirements and many are not practical to adhere to.
“Some of the guidelines directed by the CDC I think are absolutely unrealistic for public schools with 3,000 students,” he said. “We have 26 bus routes and probably 2,000 that ride a bus every morning and afternoon.”
The CDC recommends seating children one per seat and every other seat being open.
“For buses, this is not going to be realistic,” he said. “We would have to have routes starting at 3:30 a.m. to get everyone to school on time. But we will look at the routes and how we can keep our students safe.”
Lankford said he has been trying to stay ahead of the curve with planning and different scenarios the schools could face in the fall.
Alexander City Schools will not return for the 2020-21 school year until Aug. 20 allowing for an additional 2 1/2 weeks of preparation time. The ALSDE will release a roadmap for returning to school mid-June, allowing teachers and faculty to properly alter their plans accordingly.
“Having that extra time will be beneficial,” Lankford said. “Preparing for the unknown is very difficult and I just ask that the community continue to show grace and mercy as we move through this.”
Editor’s Note: Detailed plans for Tallapoosa County Schools will be in Thursday’s Outlook.