Bipartisan group of senators presents school reopening plan to State Board of Education

Montgomery — On Tuesday, three Alabama Senators made a presentation to the Alabama State Board of Education during its work session.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), Sen. John McClendon (R-Springville) and Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills), addressed the board’s roadmap for the 2020-2021 school year and shared their reservations about reopening schools.

Singleton said, “As a bipartisan group of senators, we appreciate the governor allowing us to come before the board to present our plan. We came here today because we want to see a plan that shows equity throughout the state and ensures every child, parent, and administrator can feel safe when walking back into their public school system.

“At this point, unfortunately, it seems the State Board of Education does not want the responsibility of presenting a plan that shows leadership at the state level by continuing to push its ‘Roadmap to Reopening Schools,’ which does not mandate screening, testing, or isolation rooms for children.”

The senators worked on their plan with input from the Alabama Nurses Association, teachers, superintendents, and parents.

“We can no longer act as if we are operating under normal conditions,” Singleton continued. “We are faced with an abnormal situation that none of us has seen before. We cannot minimize the risk, at the expense of our children, employees, and their families. For many of our communities, this will be the first time that we will be allowing a crowd of more than 20 people to gather in one location. We have to take more precautions than the current ‘Roadmap’ suggests.” 

The three senators are advocating for a statewide plan that includes mandates that cover every school system.

“It is time for those of us who were elected by the voters of this great state to show the fortitude of leadership and do what we can to make sure our children are safe during this worldwide pandemic,” Singleton said. “If the Alabama State Board of Education leaves it up to each system, we will have 138 different plans and that does not solve our problem. What we need is a cohesive, uniform, statewide plan. 

“We need to create a plan that will be inclusive of all 138 systems, so that we can be sure that every child, every staff member, and every faculty member are following the same guidelines when it comes to the safety of our children.”   

While some systems are larger than others and some are within COVID-19 hotspots, there are others in areas where the numbers of infected are lower. But, according to the senators, every school has the potential of becoming a hotspot if schools do not take the precautions necessary to limit the spread of this deadly infection.

“I’m concerned about all of our children, not just the children in my district,” Singleton said. “All of our children must be our priority. While we have $1.8 billion in federal funds, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure that we create and implement an equitable plan for the entire state. Therefore, there is no need to waste time worrying about funding; the funding is there.”

During the work session Gov. Kay Ivey asked State School Superintendent Eric Mackey to finalize a plan that incorporates more standards by Friday, July 17. 

“The school board doesn’t have to adopt the plan we presented today, but they do need to adopt a plan that incorporates screening, testing, and isolation,” Singleton said. “We need to do all we can to provide a safe environment so that all of our students can thrive academically.”

The video of yesterday’s school board meeting can be found at www.alsde.edu/sites/boe/Pages/PreviousMeetings.aspx.