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Local superintendents discuss back-to-school

As summer is coming to a close, local superintendents are hard at work trying to gear up for the coming school year after state superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey unveiled a roadmap for schools to reopen in the fall.

Local superintendents discussed their plans for opening after having a meeting on Tuesday.

Covington County School’s superintendent Shannon Driver said they are opening on Aug. 17 with traditional school.

“First of all, traditional school will continue as they are unless things change by August 17,” Driver said. “We will remain traditional and buses will run with enhanced cleaning procedures. We will also be offering a virtual option for grades 2-12. Our principals are going to be surveying parents and students to see how many are interested in virtual learning.”

If parents are not comfortable with traditional school, Driver said they will provide a virtual option.

“I feel like most people will prefer the traditional option, but some might prefer the virtual option,” Driver said. “Both will be available.”

As far as nutrition goes, Driver said they will be providing food for the students.

“We will still be doing the nutrition programs, lunch and breakfast, and working as normal with a few modifications,” Driver said. “We are trying to stay safe and as practical as possible. We will try to maintain social distancing as much as possible.”

Enhanced cleaning will be going on throughout all of the Covington County schools, according to Driver.

“We always have, especially during flu season, but we will at an even higher level now,” Driver said. “We will have a safe environment for our students and teachers to return to. Masks are optional for students, and our teachers and employees will need to where them when working closely with students but not always. There will be certain situations where they will be required.”

Though Driver said the school year will be challenging, he said Covington County will try its best to provide the best education for its students.

“It will be a challenging year, but we are going to make the best of it,” Driver said. “We are working hard to give students the best education while staying in a safe environment. We will do everything we can to make it the best school year possible.”

Andalusia City Schools superintendent Ted Watson said they will be providing a live-streaming classroom experience for their students who prefer an at home school year.

“We are going to try and open school as we normally would on August 17,” Watson said. “That mean’s normal instruction, in a classroom with an in class teacher. We also realized that there are parents out there who may not feel comfortable sending their kids to school given this COVID-19 environment that we are in. With that being the case, we are going to allow them to join the classroom online virtually.”

With COVID-19 still going strong, Watson wants to remind parents that there are still other illnesses that are going to pop up, but they will be ready regardless.

“We also know that there are kids who are going to get sick as the school year goes on,” Watson said. “With COVID-19 on everybody’s minds, we have yet to go through the flu or diarrhea virus and the bugs that normally hit us at the time of year that we start school. A lot of that is going to look like the same symptoms as COVID-19. The testing process for COVID-19 takes a little time, so we know some kids may be out of school for extended periods of time. We have to educate those kids too.”

With Andalusia City Schools going one to one with devices this past year, Watson said they were able to improve their Internet infrastructure just in time.

“. We happen to have a city council and mayor that allowed us to go one to one, which allowed us to take money from the federal government and apply that towards Internet infrastructure so we have the ability to provide virtual instruction,” Watson said. “That might not be the best thing to do and I’m sure there are a lot of pluses and negatives to it but I and other teachers believe that the best way to do this is in face teacher instruction. The kids at home will be responsible for logging on and being on task in the classroom. They will take part in the lesson as if they were in the classroom. If you have five kids, you need to understand that you need five computers, because they are going to be on real time in that classroom. If you want live instruction where your kid can ask questions in real time and be counted as in class on attendance then you’re going to need your own computer.”

Opp City Schools superintendent Michael Smithart said he plans on starting school on August 17, as well.

“I believe the roadmap is a good place to start for us,” Smithart said. “Obviously we have got some things to look at locally and do what works best for us just like any other system does but our plan is to start school August 17.”

As far as sanitizing goes, Smithart said they are going to follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines.

OCS will also provide traditional schooling, as well as a virtual option.

“We are just going to try and have as normal a school year as possible,” Smithart said. “We are always going to have traditional brick and mortar school, but we are also going to provide virtual learning with ACCESS for our ninth through 12th graders and we will utilize the states PLP program for our K through eighth grade.”