MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Alabama’s largest school system will begin the school year online, Superintendent Chresal Threadgill announced Thursday.
Threadgill, who leads the Mobile County Public School System, said the school year will begin Sept. 1 with remote instruction. He said he was too concerned about his employees and students.
“I cannot, with strong reservations, put their health and even their lives in jeopardy,” he said. “Therefore, I am announcing this afternoon that Mobile County Public Schools will not reopen for students on August the 10th, 2020.
Threadgill said administrators had worked hard on a reopening plan. But with COVID-19 cases rising, he said at a news conference, he decided to toss that plan aside.
“Today, I announced to my administrative team that we are going to have to change the direction,” he said. “The number of COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise each and every day. And that is very alarming. As a leader I have to make tough decisions. But I do not make decision that’s best for me. As a leader I make decisions that best for those that follow me.”
Threadgill said online instruction will last for at least nine weeks, after which, administrators will evaluate where the county stands regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision stands in contrast to the Baldwin County Public School System and other area school systems, which are pressing forward to open school on time, with various options for classroom instruction and home-based internet learning.
The Mobile County system is in line, however, with several large school districts across the country that have decided to keep students at home.
August will be period of planning and professional development for staff, Threadgill said. He added that about 20 percent of parents who participated in a statewide survey indicated they preferred online learning for the fall and that in Mobile County, it was double that percentage.
“Everyone will not agree with this decision,” he said. “Nor will this road be easy. However, I am blessed to have the best board, administrative team, faculty and staff, and I know without any doubt that we will continue doing what is best for our students together.”
Threadgill said the system had a 75-page reopening plan – a blueprint that he added he hopes to implement eventually. It will include three options for students:
- Face-to-face instruction.
- Remote learning, which involves students and home interacting with teachers via video conferencing.
- Virtual learning, in which students log online and work at their own pace with less interaction with teachers.
Unlike the end of the last school year, when the system offered learning packets for children that did not have internet access, Threadgill said that will not be done for the coming year. He said the system had spent millions of dollars available under the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to purchase several thousand Chromebooks and wifi devices.
“We feel like we have enough devices and wifis for all of our students,” he said.
In addition, Threadgill pronounced the system’s budget position as “strong” and said no layoffs are planned.
He said he sympathizes with working parents who now will have to scramble for day care arrangements.
Threadgill sidestepped a question about fall sports. He said he has been in constant contact with the Alabama High School Athletic Association, adding, “I think some things might change, so that information will be forthcoming.”