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Back to class?

Public school officials in Pike County are drafting timelines for a potential phased reopening of schools as well as a deferred start to the 2020-2021 school year.

The plans are based on possibilities outlined by Eric Mackey, Alabama State Superintendent of Education, in a statewide call with superintendent’s last week.

“We’re going to meet this Wednesday to begin discussing what that might look like,” said Cynthia Thomas, interim superintendent for Troy City Schools.

Mackey outlined a phased reopening that could see the return of students ages 13 or older on June 8, with an emphasis on athletic programs and summer remediation in groups of 10 or less. Younger students could possibly return after July 6 for summer programs, reading camps or similar events.

“It’s encouraging that the state officials are looking for a way to phase up back to full operations at some point,” said Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools. “(But Dr. Mackey) also made it very clear in the conference that this is a fluid situation, and everything he was saying might be modified”

Bazzell and the district leadership team already have been meeting to put together best practices for how those phased returns might take place.

“Much of depends on what the Alabama Department of Public Health sets in terms of what we can and cannot do,” he said.

One disappointment, though, is confirmation that a traditional graduation service won’t be held for the Class of 2020.

“It is disappointing that any kid of traditional graduation ceremony is off the table at least until August,” Bazzell said. “I hate it for the seniors. It’s terrible, but we don’t have a choice.”

Instead, the district may consider some type of virtual ceremony or drive-in graduation to recognize the Class of 2020, he said.

“We are going to end the school year on time, and parents and students can expect to receive report cards in early June,” Bazzell said.

Both Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools already have approved a school calendar for the upcoming year, but revisions are being drafted to allow for a later start date in August, per state recommendations.

“We’re calling it the COVID calendar and it has a start date of August 24,” Bazzell said.

“It reduces from 180 to 175 the number of student instruction days for one year only.”

Bazzell said he will present the revised calendar to the school board later this month.

“We obviously had already done our calendar but we’re looking at a later date in August as well,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to see what COVID-19 is going to do before moving forward …

“I’m prayerful the curbs keep lowering and the guidelines are lifted not just to accommodate people’s boredom but lifted due to flattening the curve and safety.”