Alabama superintendent says he can’t force schools to return to in-person learning


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The state’s top educator is responding to a call from Gov. Kay Ivey for Alabama’s students to return to in-classroom learning despite a spike in COVID-19 cases.   

Gov. Ivey released a statement urging school systems across the state to return to in-person learning. She cited nearly 9,800 students who never enrolled throughout the state.

But according to State School Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, there’s no way to force school systems to do so.

“Even if I wanted to, I don’t have the legal authority to do that,” Mackey said.

But he agrees with the governor on the need to get as many students back in the classroom. 

“She understands as I do, that we have to be cautious. What we are encouraging school systems to do is to look at the numbers in each community and make decisions on a school-by-school basis,” Mackey said.

Mackey says what’s more important right now with rising COVID-19 cases, is to make sure that when students are in the classroom, that all safety protocols are being followed.

“People are getting fatigued with wearing their masks, and those kinds of things.  Not just in the school day but in our extra-curricular activities,” Mackey said.

For now, Mackey says state education officials will continue working with local school systems to help them make the right decisions when it comes to virtual learning.

Plus, he says educators with school systems across the state are reaching out to parents of those students who have not enrolled this year. He believes many have used the pandemic as an excuse not to return to school. However, he confident many of those students will return to the classroom soon. 

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