School system prepares for probable COVID shutdown


ROBERTSDALE – Baldwin County public schools are preparing for a probable shutdown of some schools or grades in upcoming weeks but have plans ready to shift back to distance learning if necessary, Superintendent of Education Eddie Tyler said.

Tyler spoke to city, county, state and school system officials at a lunch meeting Friday, Nov. 20. He said the county school system has made plans for a shutdown if closing become necessary.

“We’ve developed a plan that we’ll roll out soon about how we’ll handle a possible or eventual school closing in our school system, or a grade-level closing and just like we said about the COVIDs in our schools every day,” Tyler said. “We’re going to see, probably, a shut-down of a school.”

In an email sent to Baldwin County parents on Nov. 18, Tyler said officials began working on the plan before school opened in August.

“Those plans included the ability to close a school, a grade level, a feeder pattern or the entire system, if necessary,” Tyler said in the email. “These decisions would be made very carefully as I understand the impact this would have on your families, our communities and our economy. Have no doubt that your child's health is my primary concern but know we will weigh all factors in making any decisions.”

A total of 8,131 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Baldwin County, according to Alabama Department of Public Health reports. A total of 944 cases have been reported in Baldwin County in the last 14 days.

The county has had 80 confirmed deaths and four probable fatalities from the coronavirus.

In the last week, 11 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Baldwin County schools, according to ADPH reports.

When schools across the state closed in the spring, educators were not ready to shift to distance learning in a few days, Tyler said on Nov. 20. He said Baldwin County is more prepared now if changes have to be made.

“They’re ready as opposed to in the spring when everybody was caught off guard,” Tyler said. “How are we going to educate these kids? What is distance learning? How do we do that? What’s it look like? They’re ready if we shut down Monday or after the holidays our distance learning starts immediately, and we have a great plan.”

In the Nov. 18 email, Tyler said rumors that schools would not reopen after the Thanksgiving holiday were not correct. He said the number of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 reports in the school system has increased, but many of the cases were the result of contact tracing or quarantines due to contacts.

“For example, while we had nearly 70 people out on Monday, the Department of Public Health only showed seven of those as confirmed COVID-19 cases. The rest would be suspected which are people identified through contact tracing or quarantining of families,” Tyler said in the email.

He said Baldwin County has done a good job dealing with COVID cases and taking precautions against the spread of the virus. The county was the first large school system to reopen in August following closings in the spring.

The system’s Virtual School had about 300 high school students in the 2019-20 school year, When schools reopened to 2020 and enrollment was expanded to include elementary grades, more than 7,000 students signed up for Virtual School.

“When our parents realized that our schools were safe and that we are doing what we said we were going to do with our sanitation methods and all the proper procedures, we’ve had over 2,000 parents come back,” Tyler said. “I think that’s a big statement because your parents, grandparents know how we deal with the most precious commodity and that is students.”