MONTGOMERY — While there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Alabama, state school Superintendent Eric Mackey addressed plans for public school systems if the virus infects staff and/or students.
At a news conference, Mac-key said the State Board of Education has instructed local superintendents not to close schools or cancel major events without seeking advisement from the state offices. If there is a confirmed COVID-19 case within a school system, the school would be closed for 24 to 48 hours for arduous cleaning and then the Alabama Department of Public Health would assess the situation to see if it needed to be closed for a longer period, Mackey said.
Health officials could also determine if other schools in the system could be affected and should be shut down in the instance, for example, an infected teacher performed duties on multiple campuses.
“I think the thing we want to emphasize today is that we’ve talked about all that and we have plans for how we would handle that,” Mackey said.
Most every school system will be on spring break one week in the month of March, with 90% of systems taking the holiday during the week of March 22.
The school board is now advising that students and faculty not to travel out of the country over spring break or to a “hot spot” area within the United States where an outbreak has been reported.
“As more and more countries are starting to quarantine, we’ve decided not to put our students at more of a risk,” Mackey said. “That is subject to change because we are getting more information daily.”
Local school boards have the authority to cancel domestic travel for field trips or scheduled school activities.
Mackey urged families to continue sending their children to school, as they are safe for the time being and encouraged diligent hand-washing and monitoring for symptoms of illness. He also noted that the new virus has not proved deadly to children.
Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have confirmed multiple cases of the new coronavirus, while Alabama is among the minority of states without a confirmed case.
On Monday, March 9, a Christian school in Niceville, Florida, decided to voluntarily close its doors for two weeks after a member of a local church came down with the illness. Many students and faculty who attend the Rocky Bayou Christian School attend the same church.
So far, Alabama has tested around 20 people for COVID-19.