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Mackey: All Alabama schools will reopen in the fall

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — All Alabama schools will reopen for traditional classes this fall, but they’ll also offer options for virtual learning for parents who aren’t comfortable sending their children back, the state school superintendent said Friday.

State School Superintendent Eric Mackey announced plans for restarting the educational system during a news conference but said the road map was subject to change “based on the spread of the virus.”

“This is going to be the most difficult school year we have ever faced,” he said.

Parents and children won’t see the exact same thing at any two schools, he said, but things like cleaning procedures and lunchtime will change everywhere.

“Every school is going to look different,” he said.

Districts shut down traditional schools in March on order of the state and many switched to online or virtual learning, and Mackey said a survey showed about 15% of parents still are not comfortable sending their children back to school.

Virtual lessons will be still used, he said, and changes are being made to widen internet access in places where broadband internet connections are scarce.

Alabama has reported more than 33,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 880 people have died. More than a quarter of the cases have been reported in the last two weeks, and health officials are worried by increasing hospital caseloads and a rise in the rate of positive test results.

Infection rates are highest in some rural counties where students have to travel long distances to reach school and internet service is spotty at best.