In an unreleased report, the CDC classifies Alabama as a Red State. This label has nothing to do with our well-deserved classification as a Red State politically. Rather, much more importantly, the classification means that Alabama has entered a stage of increased Covid virus cases that warrants a pause or retreat in our efforts to recapture some degree of normalcy. It is a warning.
Given the Covid trends in Alabama and locally, I am most concerned about aggregating and congregating students, teachers, staff and support personnel to reopen our schools. As I wrote to the ACS Board of Education, I am not convinced that a delay of another term before opening schools would be worse than the results of opening schools now. The only possible outcome in opening schools will be to increase the number of Covid cases. Our health officials nationally and locally tell us, ask us, not to do that.
There are other options to reopening schools. In a letter to Mobile County Public School System employees, the superintendent wrote, “Your health and safety is my top priority as Superintendent of Mobile County Public Schools. … Superintendents across Alabama and across the country are making tough decisions about how to return to school, even as the number of coronavirus cases is higher than ever. We have to do what is right for our children and our employees, and we have to prioritize health and safety above all else. That is why Mobile County Public Schools has made the decision to start school on September 1. We will offer all instruction remotely so we can protect our children, teachers, and staff as much as possible during these difficult times. We will do remote instruction for the first quarter, which is nine weeks, and then we will re-evaluate our situation and decide what to do for the second quarter.”
I have absolute confidence that our local school boards have the same priorities. In my letter to the Board, I thanked the members for their service that brings both rewards and challenges. The Covid pandemic and opening schools is among the best of challenges they will face.
I know that every school system and context is different. I offer the Mobile approach to reopening our schools as a different approach that, given our current context, seems to me to warrant consideration.
Gerald W. Johnson