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"Superintendents Aren’t Doctors;” Alabama Senators Seek Clarity on Reopening Schools

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Montgomery, Ala. - Senators Bobby Singleton, Jabo Waggoner, and Jim McClendon presented a plan developed with the Alabama School Nurses Association for students’ healthcare in schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak at today's Alabama State School Board. Senator McClendon (R - Springville) said the Senators have been “frustrated” with the apparent non-committal stance by State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey in previous weeks.

The Safely Opening Schools plan presented to the Board proposes 300 additional school nurses, testing equipment, freestanding isolation facilities for every school, and thermal imaging systems to screen students and faculty. According to the senators, many schools currently have no place to isolate students or staff members that test positive for the virus. They said their plan allows the construction of a 480 square foot isolation room for such schools, and also includes precautionary screening of students prior to boarding the school bus. Senator Waggoner (R - Vestavia Hills) stated that Alabama High School Athletic Association Director Steve Savarese also supports the plan. While the Legislature and Governor Ivey, who serves as the President of the State School Board, fought over control of the CARES Act money earlier in the year, Senator Singleton (D - Greensboro) urged the Board and Governor to make Alabama’s children the priority and when it comes to safety. Singleton maintained that the current plan, the Roadmap to Reopening Schools, does not address what happens if a teacher gets sick and that “local superintendents aren’t doctors.” Singleton's comments follow a scathing opinion editorial on the lack of leadership from the State School Board on the reopening process.

The senators proposal carries a $150 million price tag. Sen. McClendon said that about $135 million of that would come from the one-time CARES Act allocation to Alabama from the federal government. In Sen. Singleton's comments, he noted that State Superintendent Mackey’s plan revolved around giving each school about $50,000 for a nurse and supplies, but pointed out the many funding discrepancies between the various local school districts.

As schools plan for re-opening, differences are emerging among Alabama’s 138 school districts. The Hoover Board of Education voted on Monday to require students in grades 3-12 to wear masks. It also shifted the school start date back two weeks to August 20th. AL.com reported that Selma’s Superintendent Avis Williams intends to urge her school board to push the start date back two weeks until August 24th and begin school through remote and virtual learning. 

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