ROBERTSDALE – Public school classes will resume Aug. 12 in Baldwin County, but parents will have a choice – send their children back into the buildings and potential COVID-19 infection or receive instruction online, education officials said Thursday.
School doors closed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Facilities will reopen on schedule, Eddie Tyler, Baldwin County superintendent of education said.
“Come Aug. 12, we’ll welcome students back to school,” Tyler said. “That date hasn’t changed. The board has no appetite for changing the calendar. I’ve had many parents say Mr. Tyler, let’s go ahead and start school. They want to start school.”
Tyler said school system officials have plans drafted for reopening but will not release details until later in the summer due to the changing nature of the pandemic.
“I know what we’re going to do, but what I don’t want to do is get out ahead and give you information which is changing constantly and a week from now I’ve got to come back to you and I’ve got to apologize for the message I gave to you,” Tyler said. “What I’m going to give you is information that you can take and digest it and make decisions for your child about how we move forward in educating your children. I’ve got to balance what I know and what might come.”
Tyler said school system employees will do everything possible to keep students safe. The system has purchased thermal cameras to monitor body temperatures, protective equipment, “truckloads of sanitizer” and other items to protect students, he said.
Still, children could be infected when they come back to school.
“Parents, please understand that we’re going to create as best we can, an environment, where when your child comes to school, there is a certain level of expectation of sanitation, safety, things of that nature,” Tyler said. “But I’m here to tell you that when your child comes to our brick and mortar, there’s no way that I’m going to guarantee you that your child’s not going to come in contact with COVID. I can’t, and I won’t. I know that’s harsh. I hope that most of my parents understand that’s reality and I hope they appreciate that message. But, if you’re concerned, we have our virtual school as an option.
The Baldwin County Board of Education has expanded the Virtual School program to include all grades from kindergarten through high school.
Students can take classes and complete assignments online and then go to one of several satellite offices to take tests or receive in-person instruction and assistance from teachers. Satellite offices will be located in Daphne, Bay Minette and Foley.
“From K through 12, it’s going to be staffed properly, certified people,” Tyler said. “This is Baldwin County stand-alone virtual. We have some of the best teachers in the state of Alabama.”
He said more information on the program is available at baldwinvirtual.com.
The Virtual School program began about 10 years ago for upper-grade students. Tyler said Baldwin’s program has been recognized as one of the best in the state, but students must have the discipline to complete programs on their own.
“Absenteeism, accountability, assessments, all of these things will come into play,” Tyler said.
Parents will have to decide by the end of August whether to send their children to traditional classes or Virtual School, Tyler said.