The Cullman Times on responding to new realities presented by the coronavirus:

This isn’t the March Madness we anticipated or desired.

By now you have been affected by the coronavirus known as COVID-19. You may have had to postpone a vacation, told to stay away from your campus, watched your 401K dissolve. You may be missing out on a long-anticipated show or your favorite sporting events. You likely have visited every store in the county looking for a bottle of hand sanitizer or pack of toilet paper.

By now, hopefully, you haven’t been infected or told to sit in isolation for a 14-day quarantine.

This isn’t the madness we anticipated or desired, but it is the one we now must live with for the foreseeable future.

Community colleges, public schools, houses of worship, entertainment venues and various businesses and organizations are listening to health experts and making decisions to close their doors, postpone events or change the way they do business.

The Cullman Times is working to inform the public about the local impact with reports about steps being taken by community leaders, schools, businesses, churches, sports teams and other organizations. We’ve listed postponements and safety tips.

We have created a landing page going forward for readers to find all this information at

We thank you for recognizing and supporting community journalism. While pieces of information may be obtained from various sources, a general news organization such as The Cullman Times is your best source for a wide range of local, state and national verified information.

While most content on our website is exclusive to our readers, we have lifted the fee for coronavirus reports that are posted as News Alerts. This won’t cover all coronavirus stories, but it will cover those that have the greatest effect on public health and have the largest impact.

We know it is difficult to escape fear when a national emergency is declared, continents are closed off, the stock market crashes and some of our most treasured events are canceled, but we urge everyone to avoid panic and remain calm.

There is no need to hoard goods from grocery stores, only to deny our neighbors.

Some may question why drastic precautions are being taken in states such as Alabama with only handfuls of confirmed cases. But that is the point.

We live in a small world, connected by business, academic and leisure travelers. The goal of limiting contact is to prevent the spread and allow health-care workers to treat smaller numbers of patients that do become infected.

We urge you to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

This isn’t the March Madness we anticipated or desired, but we can make the best of it.

The Gadsden Times on local control over decisions that impact schools

It’s human nature to romanticize how things were in the past. It’s foolish to try to transpose those things to a different world, full of different variables that have zero connection to that which no longer exists.

Take the complaints about summer break for students in Alabama. Systems currently set their own calendars, the only stipulation being they include the requisite 180 instructional days (or 1,080 instructional hours).

Right now, there is consistency in the local schedules, with the Gadsden City, Etowah County and Attalla City systems getting out on May 21 and starting the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 11.

That doesn’t sit well with folks who remember when students got out about Memorial Day and didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day. They think the current setup doesn’t provide enough chilling or down time — doesn’t “let kids be kids.”

We’ll note that the school calendar they idealize originated in a more agrarian (and equally bygone) era, when kids were needed to pick and chop cotton and handle other farm chores, and if they were lucky stole occasional moments of recreation in a swimming hole.

Still, those protests have produced legislative efforts to mandate a school calendar giving students longer summer breaks. The latest is a bill filed last week by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford.

Hurst’s original intention was to require a Memorial Day to Labor Day break, but after opposition from school leaders, he now would have the break start no later than May 31 and end no earlier than the third Monday in August.

His motivation actually has little to do with “letting kids be kids.” He wants to give older students more time to gain summer employment that can teach them valuable job skills they can carry forward into adulthood.

We have zero problem with that goal. Some folks are shaking their heads over the current refresher courses in hand-washing, something so basic it ought to be innate. We have the same reaction to those who don’t understand the concepts of getting to work on time with a professional appearance and attitude.

We also acknowledge the benefits of students working summer jobs. The problem is the different landscape we noted. Kids are now in competition with adults and even the elderly for the kind of jobs they used to populate.

Their schedules also are a lot busier. While we don’t have year-round school — we’ve previously addressed the arguments educators make for that, like improving students’ retention of concepts — those in Advanced Placement courses often have summer book lists and projects to complete. Academic types are training for the ACT and taking it multiple times, and athletes with scholarship potential are playing on travel ball teams, both in search of college money. There really isn’t much of a break or off-season as far as training for those involved in high school sports or cheerleading.

That will intensify the “stop piling stuff on them and let them be kids” cries, and we’re not unsympathetic to that attitude, but again it’s a different world. The path to a successful place in it now starts earlier, is hyper competitive and transcends U.S. borders, and involves education (not just K-12) as much as it does learning to say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” to your boss.

We think decisions on how to guide students along that path — including the drawing up of school calendars — should be left to the professionals in local systems. There shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all mandate from Montgomery. Or is local control of schools only an issue when the feds are trying to butt in?

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