In just two days nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition urging Mobile County schools to reopen schools for in-person learning, but the district says it plans to continue offering online classes only for the time being.
As Lagniappe has reported, the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) was one of the first school systems in the state to announce that it would only offer online classes during the first nine weeks of the fall semester. Other systems offered both online and in-person options.
After a delayed start, those remote learning efforts launched earlier this week after spending millions purchasing and distributing digital devices and Wi-Fi hotspots to tens of thousands of students over the past several weeks. School officials have called the first week of remote learning a success but have acknowledged some issues have been reported.
While some parents have been pleased with the Schoology platform and live lessons that teachers are offering from their classrooms, others have run into technical difficulties or have struggled to find a way to keep their children supervised and focused on school while they’re working.
On Wednesday — a day after online classes began — a change.org petition titled “Mobile County Public Schools please reopen for in-school learning” the creator argued that virtual learning would put MCPSS’ more than 55,000 students behind on their educational journey.
“Our children are missing out on valuable lessons that can only be taught in person, such as social skills, nonverbal communication/cues, and active engagement in learning. Other school districts in our area have gone back to in-person school, as well as, private schools in our district,” the petition reads. “I am pleading with Mobile County to send our children and teachers back to in-school learning and give the option for remote learning for those students/parents that want to stay home.”
Rena Philips, a spokeswoman for MCPSS, said district officials are aware of the petition and have heard from other parents who would prefer to see in-person classes resume. She also said that other parents have been happy with the online setup because of concerns with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of the day, Philips said all decisions about when to resume in-person classes have been and will be made with the health and safety of MCPSS’ students and employees in mind.
“We are monitoring the COVID-19 numbers and are working on a plan to transition our students back to the classroom when it is safe to do so for our students, our teachers and our families,” Philips said. “This plan will be communicated once finalized.”
Based on its plans announced in July, MCPSS is projected to resume in-person classes after the first nine weeks of school, which would mean students will remain online through the month of October at least. However, the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community seems to have dropped significantly since that time, with new cases and hospitalizations continuing a downward trend.
As school systems and many other entities continue to adapt to COVID-19, public health officials’ eyes seem to be on the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Most of Alabama’s significant upticks in cases have followed holiday weekends like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
In a statement Thursday, Mobile County Health Officer Bernard Eichold encouraged residents to enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend but also to continue the practices that have helped slow the spread of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 over the past several weeks.
“Thank you for all that you’re doing wearing your face coverings, washing your hands and socially distancing,” Eichold said. “You’re really making a difference in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
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