First Day

Students enter Dothan High School during the first day of classes.

Although Gov. Kay Ivey announced that Alabama public schools will remain shuttered for the rest of the school year and students will do classwork through distance learning at home, local school officials are awaiting guidance from the Alabama Department of Education before proceeding.

Those instructions, which will include academics, best practices for continuing the child nutrition programs that many students depend on and other distance-learning concerns, will be addressed by state school Superintendent Eric Mackey on Friday when he talks to superintendents from around the state.

Ivey noted the dissonance among schools in areas with and without broadband internet access, saying that schools will need to find a way to be flexible with instruction. Mackey also said the school year will be extended to June 5, so that every student’s needs may be met. The distance learning will start April 6, according to Ivey’s order.

Access issue

The Houston County school system has many students who live in rural areas and do not have dependable internet access.

Superintendent David Sewell said schools have been assigning work to those students during the current time off so they don’t get behind. However, he added, many parents failed to pick up the work as school closed earlier than expected after Ivey announced the initial school closure earlier this month.

Teachers at other schools have been given flexibility about how to issue assignments using Access, an online tool that can service many subjects for students in grades eight and up, and XLM, which just teaches math.

Odysseyware, a program used for summer school and alternative programs, also is an option, he said, if the school system obtains licenses for more students.

The Houston County system started a feeding program this week, and will continue it through Friday. But since the system’s regularly scheduled spring break week begins Monday, there were no plans for next week.

Sewell said that after input from state officials, he will be able to provide more information about the remainder of the year.

Dothan’s plan

In an email, Dothan City Schools said: “Since the announced closure, many students were sent home packets or enrichment activities. These packets and activities are not required to be provided for students to take or complete online for the initial closing dates.

“Schools could provide schoolwork to students, send home books and put assignments online. But they are not required, and they cannot be graded. They are enrichment activities. All of our guidance comes directly from the state department.”

The school systems could not answer how the closure will affect courses students were taking at the Houston County Career Academy or Dothan Technology Center, citing “uncharted territory.”

Dothan school families can find additional enrichment activities, resources, along with other questions on DCS’s COVID-19 Urgent Update Center website at Dothan.k12.al.us/covid19.

Spring sports and extracurricular events also are canceled, while Mackey is hoping that schools will be able to host proms and graduation ceremonies later in the summer.

Ivey touted that there will be a plan in place at every school for all high school seniors to graduate on time.

Mackey said school systems will be given options about how to move forward with instruction and those plans will be communicated as soon as possible.

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