Alabama public K-12 students to finish school year at home; Hamilton says FCS will meet challenges

Franklin County Schools Superintendent Greg Hamilton agrees that student health and safety is important, and said the district will meet the challenges it now faces.

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Public schooling will resume in Alabama on April 6, albeit in a very different setting: in the home of every student in the state.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Thursday that rather than return to classrooms after the normally scheduled spring break, students will instead complete their studies at home, with public school districts around the state implementing “a plan to complete the 2019-2020 school year using alternate methods of instruction as established by the State Superintendent of Education.”

What that will look like is unclear, and more details were to be worked out announced later.

“This decision has not been made lightly,” Ivey said during the afternoon press conference. “However, the virus continues to spread.”

The likelihood is that school districts will utilize a combination of online learning and possibly the distribution of paper packets containing lessons for students. The widespread implementation of online tools, though, will present a major challenge for a significant portion of the state that does not have access to high speed Internet access.

Franklin County is in that exact predicament, as high-speed service is not readily available outside of Red Bay, Vina, Russellville or Phil Campbell. However, whatever is determined to be the best course of action will be pursued to the fullest degree, Franklin County Superintendent Greg Hamilton said.

“I agree we want to continue to educate our students the best we can,” Hamilton said of Ivey’s announcement and decisions. ” I also agree that student safety is the most important issue. The ability to educate children without one-on-one interaction will create challenges. The Franklin County School System is committed to doing what is best for each and every student. We have seen this already with the work our CNP (Child Nutrition Program) staff and other support staff members have done with the meal plan.”

Some parents were somewhat anxious of the plan going forward.

“I think this is going to be hard and challenging,” said Red Bay resident Michelle Barron. “I have one in high school and three in elementary but we all stay connected. We have great teachers who I am sure would not care to help direct us. By the grace of God we will all get through this! Stay positive, stay focused; this too shall pass! Praying for our Red Bay School teachers and staff of Franklin County! We will look back and say, ‘Wow that was hard but we overcame! To God be the glory!”

A season lost

With Ivey’s announcement, high school seniors across the state of Alabama have seen their final year of school come to an abrupt end. This means no school-sanctioned prom, and an end to spring sports – and graduation plans that are up in the air.

“It’s sad for all kids but especially the seniors,” said Angela Riddle, of Red Bay. “This was their big year and it was cut short.”

The school year in Alabama will now technically end on June 5. It is possible, though, that should conditions improve by then – and there is a belief COVID-19 could begin to fade as warmer weather sets in –that graduation might still be on the table. Hamilton remains cautious but hopeful.

“If it appears that it is safe to try and have a graduation ceremony on campus we will make every effort to do that,” Hamilton said.