Local superintendents said they will continue to make adjustments and stay updated on developments now that Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered schools to remain closed through the academic year.

Students in Alabama are using online materials and home schooling options for the remainder of the year after Ivey issued the directive Thursday.

"We will do the best we can to meet the needs of our students through an online means and other means," Florence City Schools Superintendent Jimmy Shaw said. "But nothing ever will replace the impact of a quality teacher in front of a child."

Shaw said there is a push throughout the state to make sure all students have access needed to complete the year. That includes dependable online access for low-income students and families who live in rural areas. He said state school officials are working toward that effort this week.

With a couple of months remaining in the school year, graduation ceremonies are at risk.

Shaw said Florence will have one, but it's a question of when.

"We will have to wait until the Alabama Department of Public Health will lift the ban on when people can get together," he said. "Whether it's late May or June or July, we will have a ceremony. A lot of students have worked really hard to get to this moment and deserve to be recognized, and we want to recognize them."

Lauderdale County

Lauderdale County Schools Superintendent Jon Hatton said many operational decisions will rest upon Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey. 

"We'll look and see what unfolds, and work on plans this week on how to implement that further," Hatton said.

He said rural access to the internet is an issue in the county, and confronting that challenge will be difficult for students and parents.

"It's always going to be a challenge in the rural areas," Hatton said. "We will have to be dependent on the paper and pencil somewhat. I don't see any other way some of the rural areas can be reached."

Hatton said the State Health Department ultimately will have the say on graduations.

"State Superintendent Mackey said maybe things like graduations and proms could take place sometime this summer, which indicates to me that graduations will not take place before June 5," he said. "I think we're going to be in limbo based on what the ADPH says based on social distancing."

Mackey said Thursday that June 5 would be the last day of school.

Hatton said the closing of schools is frustrating, but it's indicative of the seriousness of the virus.

"This is a safety issue," he said. "The safety of our children is what's important here."

Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals Superintendent Brian Lindsey said his system already had established a plan of digital instruction in the event schools remain closed.

"We were all hoping for a different outcome later on at some point in time, but realistically we knew that possibility existed," Lindsey said of the shutting down of schools. "Now we just have to move forward, and that's what we're doing."

He said the fortunate part is that this is happening late in the year.

"From a timing standpoint it's good that it's at this point in the school year rather than earlier," Lindsey said. "This is problematic, but it would have caused more extensive problems if it had been earlier."

He said he has confidence in Mackey and Ivey and realizes student safety is the most important factor.

"That's first and foremost," Lindsey said. "Safety is paramount, so we cross that bridge first."

Lindsey said Muscle Shoals will use online instruction the remainder of the year. Officials will contact parents this coming week to make sure their homes are equipped to handle that.

"We want to find out if we have pockets that might not have access to the internet, and we'll do things to help in that area for the online instruction for the rest of the school year," Lindsey said.

He hopes graduation will go on, but it is too early to know whether it would be on June 5.

"We just can't make that call right now because we just don't know," Lindsey said. "We're all living this day to day, and it's too far out to answer that.

"We hate this for all of our students, but we really do for our seniors," he said. "This is supposed to be the time of forever memories for them, and this will definitely be a forever memory for a lot of different reasons."


Tuscumbia Superintendent of Education Darryl Aikerson said the school system sent out a survey Friday to determine how many families are without internet service or wireless internet.

"We're encouraging parents who do not have internet service to try Comcast's 60-day trial for free," Aikerson said.

He said faculty and staff are still getting paid.

Online instruction does not begin until April 6 and Aikerson said students can find instructional information online on their school's website.

"The principals are going to send out school ... messages through their alert system, so hopefully all parents, if we have a good phone number, can receive voicemail messages or text messages," the superintendent said.

Aikerson said many teachers have completed the instructional portion of the school year, and would be moving toward the review and testing period in the final nine weeks of the school year.

"The state superintendent wanted to make sure we're covering our critical standard in reading and math for K-8 students," he said.

Instructors would also determine where high school students stand and develop plans for students who may be struggling or behind academically.

Colbert County

Colbert County Superintendent of Education Gale Satchel said there are many areas in Colbert County without broadband service, [or very limited access to broadband service.

"As of today, we have 71.21% of our student population eligible for free-reduced price meals," Satchel said. "That percentage is a good indicator of where our students are as it relates to additional resources."

WiFi hot spots are not available to students, but Satchel said they can purchase a device from LeanStream, an option that has been available since September 2019. Information can be found on the Colbert County schools website.

Colbert County staff and faculty will continue to be paid without any changes, Satchel said.

She said schools sent out information about course work last week.

"We will also have a drive-thru pickup on Monday from 7 to 9 a.m. at each school site," Satchel said. "This is also a time to checkout Chromebooks, one per family, and get food bags."

She said parents will be expected to support their students to the best of their ability. She said teachers have not given up their duties.

"The building is closed," Satchel said. "Education is not."

Students, she said, will know their graduation status by having a discussion with their school counselors. Satchel said those discussions have actually already began, although a date has not been set.

Students will still be able to schedule an ACT test after the pandemic passes, and will still be able to discuss issues with counselors through non-traditional methods, shel said.


Sheffield Superintendent Keith Davis, said they're still determining how many students do not have access to the internet at home. The system does not have WiFi hot spots for its students.

Davis said most full-time employees on the district's payroll will continue to be paid.

Parents will receive correspondence about their children's assignments during the week of April 6.

He said the school system is looking at a variety of options for students whose parents might not be able to help them with their school work. They're also working on solutions for students who might need help from school counselors with their college paperwork.

Davis said the school system has not made a decision about graduation at this time. Students at Sheffield High School have already taken the ACT test.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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