Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler said today “schools will be open” Aug. 12, but warned “I will never guarantee that our schools will be 100 percent sanitized, Covid-free zones.”
Tyler said the school system has invested more than $1 million in sanitary equipment and supplies, but to keep schools closed would be harmful for both the county and the economy. Any decision to close schools again would be made by the governor, he said.
However, all K-12 parents will have the option to enroll their students in virtual school if they have concerns about virus transmission. Previously, Baldwin County Virtual School was only available to 6th through 12 grade students.
Noting there have been numerous discussions with staff, parents and school board members about the two options, Tyler said administrators at brick and mortar schools may impose mask requirements, social distancing and temperature checks, but those details are not yet available and may be difficult to enforce.
“Children will be children – they will hug, get close to each other, drink out of each other’s drinks – and we don’t have the staff to prevent it,” Tyler said. “But we’re going to create as best we can an environment where if your child comes to school, there is a certain level of expectation of sanitation, safety, etc.”
Tyler said the school system has purchased “truckloads” of sanitation supplies and each school will have three thermal cameras, but does not know whether the measures will be effective or how long they will last, considering everyone is competing for the same supplies.
He urged parents to learn the difference between virtual school and the “distance learning” model instituted in the spring as the pandemic broke out, adding students’ attendance will be counted, work will be graded, assessments will be given and accountability is a factor. Face-to-face appointments can be made for tutoring.
Virtual school “is a complete one-eighty” from distance learning, he said.
School buses will run as usual to brick and mortar schools with no limits on capacity, but no transportation is provided to virtual schools, he noted. The county is adding physical locations for virtual school in Bay Minette and Foley, he said, to complement the existing facility in Daphne.
Teachers are expected to report back to school Aug. 3. Students may begin the school year at either a brick-and-mortar school or enrolled in virtual school, but parents will have until the last day of August to make an ultimate decision where they complete the school year.
“I encourage you to sit down and have a conversation with your child about the choice you need to make,” he said.
More details about individual school re-openings and requirements will be forthcoming, Tyler said, urging parents to remain patient as the situation could change between now and the time school starts.
“You’ve trusted me for the last five years so I ask for your trust through this process,” he said. “We’re reinventing how you come to school in Baldwin County and we have to be serious about how much we are taking care of our parents’ children.”
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