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Troy City, Pike County schools will not return to classrooms

Public school students in Alabama will not return to classrooms this school year, and for the nearly 4,000 students in Pike County that means a spring filled with home-based and online learning.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced the plan to keep classrooms closed on Thursday, saying “the decision has not been made lightly.” All on-campus instruction and extracurricular activities are cancelled for the remainder of the school year, and Ivey instructed each of the local public school districts to adopt a plan to finish the year “through alternative methods of instruction.”

Alabama’s K-12 public and private school buildings were closed March 19 through a state health order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Classes were tentatively set to resume April 6.

“In anticipation of that our staff was already working on this,” said Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools.

“The school year is not done,” Bazzell said. “We are providing instruction all the way through June 5, if we need that time, and at the end of that time we will evaluate each of the students based on their progress. I’m not sure If we will end up giving numerical grades, but we may do pass or fail on all assignments.”

About 2,200 students attend Pike County Schools, and Bazzell said an estimated 60 percent of them have home computers, with 60 percent having broadband internet access. Because of that, the district will utilize a blended approach to instruction.

“We will have packets ready for pick up at the end of next week that cover the month of April for pre-K through sixth-grade students,” he said. “We have a meeting on Monday to finalize the plans for the seventh- through 12th grades.”

Bazzell the packets include materials for the students as well as instructional information and assistance for parents. The work in the packets covers the four weeks in April and will be returned at the end of that month to be evaluated by the faculty members. “At that time, we will have materials for May,” he said.

While materials for students in pre-K through third grade will not be online, Bazzell said all other grade levels will utilize a combination of packet and online models for instruction.”

“And we are going to be paying very, very close attention to our seniors,” he said. “We are doing an analysis of each student’s transcript to make sure there is a pathway for them to graduate.”

In addition, the district is working with providers of occupational, speech and physical therapies to ensure all students with special needs have the services they need as well.

“We’ll also be providing a phone bank for parents to call at night so they can speak with a teacher and get help if needed,” Bazzell said. “We will be finalizing these plans over the next week and will be communicating with our parents through phone calls and other methods.”

Troy City Schools Interim Superintendent Cynthia Thomas said the district also will utilize a blended approach for its 1,760 students.

“Luckily for us we already have a blended plan in place,” she said. “My administrative team is meeting in the morning to finalize things.”

Charles Henderson High School’s 660 students already have computers assigned, and Thomas said some computers may be available as well for students in middle school grades.

As for commencement, Thomas said that could still happen. “The state superintendent said we may be able to do a traditional graduation after (June 6) so we will look at that,” she said.

Eric Burkett, headmaster at Pike Liberal Arts School, said Thursday the school administration has not decided about instruction for the remainder of the school year.

“As an independent school, we do not fall under the authority of the State Superintendent or are we subject their course of action,” he said. “The PLAS Board of Trustees will meet next week to consider the best interest of our students and make final decisions on what the remainder of our school year will look like. In the meantime, administration is preparing policy and the teachers have prepared communication channels should it be determined that we need to transition to an online learning scenario.”