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Sunday, 7 March 2021

Alabama announces plans to re-open schools after coronavirus closure

Credit: WAAY ABC Huntsville, AL
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Alabama announces plans to re-open schools after coronavirus closure
Alabama announces plans to re-open schools after coronavirus closure
Alabama announces plans to re-open schools after coronavirus closure

Education about to announce the reopening plans for schools in alabama.

Let's take a listen.

>>> interpreter here.

Please in terms of your camera shots be mindful and keep her in your shot.

Kind of defeats the purpose if the viewing public can't see what she is trying to translate through interpretive language.

In terms of questions, constituency dr. mackey makes the presentation, there is an mic to my left here.

The people watching online can not hear you if you're not speaking into that microphone.

We'll ask that we all adhere to social distancing protocol and give each other a little breathing room, six feet space as you make your way to the mic in no particular order.

In which you guys get to the microphone.

Just go to the microphone to my left, give yourself the appropriate space and ask your question.

Notice i said question.

One question please.

I know there is a temptation to do a follow-up.

If you'll ask your initial question, you'll receive an answer to that question.

If you have a follow-up, please circle back around to make sure the people behind you have an opportunity to ask their questions as well as is usually the case if we do these kinds of things.

If someone asked the question you intended to ask, in the interest of everyone's time, it would behoove us if you move to another question and not ask the same question twice.

If you have a follow-up, circle back and while you're standing in line, remember the six-foot rule.

With that, we are going to get started into our presentation on the road map to reopening schools.

We'll start with our state superintendent of education, dr. eric mackey.

Thank you.

>> good morning, everyone.

Thank you for the introduction.

We appreciate the media joining us today and making sure that the citizens of alabama have good information about what's going on as we prepare for the upcoming school year.

I know we have about 1,000 people watching on live stream.

I'll go through pretty quickly some slides that talk about our road map to return to school for the 2021 school year.

Now the road map itself is about 50 pages long.

It's available on the department's website.

It's pretty overwhelming.

Let me say that.

It's designed for superintendents and principals and curriculum directors and people who need the technical underpinnings in order to open school this fall and to be ready for that.

There is also a parent guide.

The parent guide is only a couple pages long and it will address the most specific and interesting and important information for parents to know as students get ready to come back to school.

So both of those will be on the website.

They will be live this morning.

You can go and click on the parent guide and if parents say i want more detail, they can click on the other guide and get the more detailed information.

The road map itself is as i said about 50 pages long.

I'm going to take about 10 slides and go through what is in it this morning.

So you see it behind me here.

On the very first slide, we want to talk about what governance.

The governance structure and what the road map is and what it's not.

I won't belabor this but i want to address, we made sure to point out there are four things the road map is to cover.

There are four things it's not.

So it's a guidance document but it's not legal advice or an alsde mandate.

It's based on expertise and experience.

We had great input from the alabama department of public health and i'll be introducing dr. scott harris in a little bit.

They've been with us every step of the way and continue to be with us and will be throughout the school year.

We also partnered with a group called opportunity labs that helped us and several other states pull together the very best research from across the country and even from other countries as we try to navigate and figure out what is the best way to move forward in the new school year.

So we also brought in experts from alabama.

About 60 people directly contributed to the big planning group and then subcommittee groups.

Those included teachers and administrators, technical people, private business and industry folks.

Lots of people pulling together to make sure we had the most comprehensive and competent plan for the upcoming school year.

So it's also comprised of essential actions designed to spur thinking, planning and prioritizeation but it's not an exhaustive list that every school system or leader will need to take this year.

It's also part of a continuum of school decision making.

Not a remote learning playbook and not a school closure guidance document in its entirety.

So it's there to design to help.

It's not the answer to everything.

Our educational responsibilities.

We wanted to lay out who is doing what as we go into the summer and the upcoming school year.

So first of all, of course the alabama department of education, we have a lot of responsibility to make sure that we have the right frameworks and responsibilities in place for our schools.

I'm going to go into more of some of those in a little bit.

We addressed areas of healthcare, nursing, transportation, vulnerable populations which would include especially students that might have medical conditions and students that have special needs and others across the state.

Child nutrition.

You know we fed millions of mealss even during the time school has been closed and we'll continue to work with that into the new school year.

Attendance and what attendance looks like on the physical campus and what it looks like in remote learning.

Then of course how to spend federal and state funds.

We're very fortunate in this state that we are not talking about significant cutbacks.

I talked to my colleagues across the country.

Some are looking at budget cuts of up to 20% in the upcoming year.

In a time when we really need resources, they're having to cut resources.

As everyone knows, alabama's legislature passed and our governor signed a record setting budget of over 7 billion there is for k-12 pre-k post secondary and higher education institutions.

About 67% of that comes to our k-12 schools.

So we're fortunate that we're not looking at budget cuts but our state has invested well for the upcoming school year.

In addition, we distributed about $200 million to local schools.

We're in the process of distributing that as they turn in their plans to get esser cares money.

I won't go into that.

I realize it's a lot of acronyms but it's money from the congress.

There is more money that will be coming forth that they'll be able to use to offset some of their needs for this fall.

So we do that if the department of edge -- at the department of education.

As i mentioned in a few minutes when i finish the presentation, we'll introduce dr. harris, our state health officer and the department of public health.

They have a responsibility of contact tracing.

There are lot of questions this week about contact tracing from our superintendents and that's the department of public health issue.

I'll let him address that and there may be questions about that today.

It's public health's responsibility to provide the guidance and the official public health orders.

So we follow those.

We read those.

We want to make sure that we apply them in school and i've got to say, dr. harris and his team have been wonderful about consulting with us as we go through the process and say how would this be interpreted in the schools.

What can we do to make it more clear for you.

But at the same time that really -- that responsibility for public health does rely with that department.

Then of course also the recommendations for physical distancing for personal social responsibility and our collective social responsibility and how we protect ourselves and one another.

Like everybody in this room that i see is wearing a mask, except for myself which i had on until i came to the microphone.

That's one thing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

And then lastly, our local school systems. they may be last but they are not least.

As i said many times, we don't actually teach children here at the department of education.

I consider myself still a teacher.

I still hold a teaching certificate and when people ask what i do, i always respond first i'm a teacher.

Then they usually ask a follow-up question, what do you teach and eventually i have to give it up what and really do for a living.

In my heart, i still see myself as a teacher.

We have thousands of teachers who will be returning to classrooms with children to take care of the children's physical, emotional and educational needs this fall and there is nothing more important than a teacher working with children either in a classroom or remote situation.

The teacher is responsibility.

We want to make sure we support our local school districts, obviously our superintendents and school administrators and curriculum folks and school nurses, the cafeteria stuff, custodial staff keeping the schools clean.

They're all extremely important.

All of us from the state superintendent to the custodial staff to the assistant principals, all of us are about supporting our teachers because they are the most important link in everything we do.

So you see that it will certainly continue to be the responsibility of local school systems to manage the day to day responsibilities of their schools.

Now we're going to go to the next slide.

This is probably the one everybody is interested in.

So what will school look like in the fall.

Will our campuses reopen for in-person instruction.

Absolutely our campuses will reopen for in-person instruction.

It's our intention that all our campuses will be open for in-person instruction.

There will be an opportunity for in-person in the classroom instruction for every child in the state whose parent chooses to send them to school all year long.

Now we can not predict the year.

That was also my intention at the beginning of last school year, but some things interrupted that.

So we're going to talk a little bit more about what could happen during the year.

That's our expectation that we would be physically open and would remain open all year long.

There will be remote learning options.

So we have been polling around the state.

We asked local superintendents to poll, and about 15% of parents tell us that they are not comfortable sending their children back to school and want a remote learning option.

In many cases, it's because their children have severe underlying medical conditions or someone else in the family does.

And they're afraid for their child to go out and bring something back.

We understand that, and so we have been working very hard since march to make sure that we're going to be in the place to offer as many remote learning options as possible in the fall.

Those local boards of education, you see the third point, working with the recommendation, under the recommendation of their superintendents and in consultation with the department of public health and other health officials will make a decision about campus status throughout the school year.

So we could be in a situation where we say, some students have to go home.

Again, dr. harris can address the contact tracing and what we have to do to make sure we keep the population safe.

We could get in a situation where a whole classroom has to be closed for a number of days.

So those kinds of things may have to happen, and those calls will be made by the local board of education.

Again, with a recommendation of superintendent and in consultation with the department of public health.

Of course that always is subject to change.

This year as you know, the governor had to declare a statewide state of emergency and closed all the schools at one time.

Certainly she retains that authority if we get in a situation where that needs to happen.

The road map focus areas.

So as you go through the road map, there are three distinct sections.

Wellness, so things like school nursing and taking care of our children.

Operations and facilities.

Cleaning.

Getting students to and from school.

Child nutrition, those sort of things.

Then instruction and technology which we put together because technology has become such an important and integrally linked part of instruction in this modern age, really, but potentially the last few weeks.

-- especially the last few weeks.

Our road map recommendations are divided into three section.

There are essential recomm recommendations either required by law, by policy, by a governmental order or they're a critical practice that we believe is absolutely essential to the reopening of school.

Then there are guidance recommendations.

The guidance recommendations are very important, but they are not one of those that's essential that be provided by bah or a critical practice.

Then there are other considerationings, and there are many other considerations out there.

Every school is going to look different.

Every school already looks different around the state.

What we do in one rural community can not be the same as the way we react in one of our major cities.

Even rural community to rural community, what we do in green county will not look like what we do in decab county.

It will be different based on the setup of the school, the resources, community needs and of course based on the spread of the virus.

Navigating the status of campus availability.

So you'll see two sections.

These are do now things.

We shared these earlier this week with superintendents.

Things that need to be done between now and the start of school in august.

Then there are return to campus things.

So things that when students begin to return to campus in a physical way need to be done during that time and again, you'll see in the do now, there will be essential and guidance and consideration recommendations and then the return to campus, there will be essential guidance and consideration recommendations.

Then instructional scenarios.

This is one i had a lot of questions about.

So what will it look like?

Will there be traditional school?

It will look somewhat different.

Students should expect that things are not going to be completely back to normal.

We're going to be doing enhanced cleaning protocols.

Some campuses, eating lunch will look different.

Eating breakfast will look different.

The school day may look different, but it will be a fairly traditional normal looking circumstance.

As i mentioned before, we have parents who said they want their student to learn from home.

We'll have a remote learning option.

We have used money given to the alabama dorm of education to -- department of education to spend to support students during the coronavirus pandemic.

We have chosen to spend the vast majority of that to buy remote learning curriculum.

Very good, well vetted curriculum available to every school in the state.

Pre-k, we went all the way down to pre-k through 12th grade.

We have been doing remote learning in this state for a long time.

In fact, through our very successful and award winning access program we started one of the first remote learning platforms in the country.

We have got a lot of experience with that.

It's just 9 through 12 and some 8th grade courses.

Now we're having to expand on the knowledge base we have all the way down to pre-k.

Now as an educator, i can tell you and as a parent, it's much different to put a 16-year-old on a remote learning than a 6-year-old.

We understand that.

That's why we have gone out and made sure we get the very best resources for our teachers.

In march and april, we did some remote learning.

We did really good things around the state.

I saw some amazing things that i'll be honest, i didn't think we could pull off.

All the things that our teachers and curriculum directors and staff here at the department were able to pull off in the spring.

They did amazing work.

If you go today to our website which you can get to through our state department website or straight to the (inaudible) site and you'll see lessons and videos and resources for math and science standards across the curriculum.

Those were gathered.

That was conceived and gathered and pulled together by our staff here at the department working with volunteers all across the state.

It's amazing resource and we'll continue to have those kinds of resources and continue to develop more of those kinds of resources, but we had teachers who were also having to go out and they were having to pull from here and there and do this and that and try to get together remote lessons.

What we have done now is we have bought in a package high quality remote lessons that the teachers can deliver without having to do hours and hours and hours of research at night.

It's still going to be delivered by the local teacher.

Those students will still be enrolled in their local school.

They'll be learning in a different way.

And the third piece on this slide is blended.

What does blended means?

It means you're doing a little bit of both of the above.

As dr. harris will be talking to us about contact tracing, we know that there are going to be times this year when student haz to go home.

They have a positive test.

They have go home.

There will be scenarios we can't predict.

They'll go from the traditional setting to the remote setting and then they're going to go back to traditional again.

That's what blended is.

How do we make sure we transition students in and out of schools.

That's going to be difficult and there is nobody who should enter this school year thinking oh, it's going to be easy.

This is indeed going to did be the most difficult school year that we have ever faced.

It's going to be the most difficult school year to get thr through, but we absolutely are determined to do it and not because it's easy.

We're determined to do it because we have students counting on us so we have to do it, and we will.

Then there is one more slide.

We saved the very best for last.

So what are we doing to make things better?

As i mentioned, remote learning is going to be the key to all of this.

Even though some students are choosing to do remote learning and it changes from county to county.

I told you statewide it's about 15%.

In some communities, it's only about 3% of our parents say the children will choose remote learning.

In some counties, it's actually 80%.

In some places where there is more severe outbreaks, people are saying we're going to keep our students a home.

So if they do, we have to have good resources for them.

What we have again invested in is statewide digital curriculum.

Our superintendents have been using their funds.

What we call advancement technology or ant funds provided by the alabama legislature.

They have been using the funds to buy devices.

To buy mobile hotshots.

They have been getting private grants to buy devices and mobile hotspots.

Many already had things.

We're working on a plan now to put more wi-fi on our school buses because we found that was very successful way in communities that just don't have internet access to get some points of internet available.

We're going to continue to look at resources to make that happen.

We're going to provide high quality professional development for our teachers and how to deliver remote instruction and how to drive learning in the 21st century.

We purchased already a statewide learning management system.

It's very technical.

Everybody outside the education world won't care that much about it, but the lms is kind of like the i-cloud, works on your phone.

That's where things are stored and it's not itself a curriculum.

It's not itself a delivery mechanism, but it's kind of that basket that holds all the teachers' lessons, all the students' tests and all the correspondence back and forth.

Some districts had an amazing lms system.

Some of them had zero, and zero money to buy them.

We used some of our money to buy the best available for every school system in the state.

Then connectivity in rural areas and broadband access points, wi-fi access points and hotspots.

As i mentioned, partnering with our local communities, we continued to roll out more and more ways to get people internet at home or internet hotspots in the community.

It will not be a perfect system.

In a perfect world, we'd have high speed internet connection to every child's home every minute of the day.

It's very important.

I mentioned i was with superintendents earlier this week.

We spent a lot of time going through these points and one of the superintendents, dr. matt aiken in gulf shores and who is the president of the association said if you don't believe internet is important, turn your cell phone on to airplane mode and carry it around for a week and see if it affects the way you work and learn.

That is unfortunately the situation that a lot of our students are dealing with, so we've got to do more and more to get them access at home.

Most people in the room know the governor rolled out a task force under kenneth boswell to work on how we're going to get more high speed internet across the state.

In the meantime, we're working on making the school buses mobile hotspots, getting wi-fi to every public library so there are access points all across the state at different places.

That goes through our road map.

I won't bore you and go into the details, but it's available on our website.

I'm going to introduce dr. scott harris, our state health officer to see if he has a few comments.

I know he is mostly here for questions.

He'll ask if anybody has questions for us.

We'll come over to the microphone.

First, dr. harris, if you'd give us a few comments or anything you'd like to say and then we'll take questions.

>> thank you, dr. mackey, for letting me join you today.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

We worked in public health very closely with the team and the dorm of education over the past several we have seen first-hand the work the team is doing and we are privileged to work with them.

They have done a tremendous job in putting together this program.

We have done our best to give them the very best public information we can and input into that.

As dr. macky said, it's really challenging to think about coming up with a hard and fast rules for every possible scenario.

I think none of us are even sure what it will look like next week in alabama in some sense.

It's been very difficult to think about how things are going to look a month or two or three months into the future.

We know there will be many things unanticipated, and this is a tremendous framework to make sure that kids do receive the education that they need and deserve but also to keep people safe and both of those have been our goals throughout this whole process.

I would say that i know that we get asked a lot about really specific guidance because people take some comfort in having hard and fast black and white rules about when i can i can't do something.

We all like that guidance.

It gives us some degree of assurance, and yet i want to encourage people to think beyond that and think about things in a less binary way and more general way.

This applies not only to schools but to every other part of what we're doing.

If we think about activities, there are several considerations and they're relative in a way.

They're not necessarily absolute in all cases.

Obviously smaller groups are going to be better than larger groups, and when there are ways to try to achieve that, then obviously that's what we would encourage.

People that are spread further apart, particularly more than six feet apart are going to be better than situations where children or anyone else can't be kept six feet apart.

Gatherings out-doors will be better than gatherings indoors.

At least depending on ventilation, for example.

Areas that are congested because you have maybe points when people are lining up to file into a facility or go through a single doorway, those are not as preferable as environments where you can avoid that kind of congestion.

Longer duration events are probably not going to be as safe as shorter duration events.

There is all kinds of considerations we'd encourage people to think through.

Every single situation is going to be a little bit different.

Every bit of risk is going to be a little bit different.

I think the document we have here and the guidance we have here encourages people to think in that way and to realize that you can make individualized decisions pretty easily if you just keep these overall tenants in mind.

I wanted to say something just for a minute about contact tracing.

We get asked that question a lot.

I know that dr. mackey received a lot of questions on that.

I want to reemphasize the role of public health in contact tracing.

It is a major tool of public health for containing any type of outbreak or epidemic or any infecious disease.

We used contact tracing for tuberculosis and syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections and many other things.

Contact tracing is a fundamental part of public health.

We continued to do contact tracing through the coronavirus pandemic.

As we look to the fall, the function remains unchanged and we will continue to do contact tracing.

As you may have heard us speak about this before, we engaged a lot of other resources to help us do that.

We are certainly tracing at numbers we never had to try do before.

It posed quite a challenge for alabama and every other state.

This is not something that falls on schools or school officials or local officials to do.

There will almost certainly be cases that occur in schools.

This is not a function for school officials to have to worry about.

That falls to public health and it's part of what we do every day.

What contact tracing is for those of you who don't know is that we investigate a case when we learn of a positive case that is someone who is infected and we find out who could be a high risk exposure to that case and in many cases, that means who has been within six feet for 15 minutes or more of this person known to be infected.

That's a basic function of public health and will continue as it always has.

So that's really all the prepared remarks i had to make.

I'd certainly be happy to take questions at the appropriate ti time.

>> this question is for dr. mackey.

Is there a specific date for local school districts to have their plans together so parents know if they're sending their kids back to a traditional school or doing the online learning.

>> there is not a specific date.

So the only date we have put out there is we encouraged school districts to consider starting a little later.

Many moved their start date back to later in august, but we actually have schools -- i think the first one in the state starts around august 4.

There is not a specific date to which they need a plan published.

>> look into the camera.

I've got it.

Look into the cameras when we answer.

Thank you.

Sorry about that.

>> good morning.

Dr. mackey, do you see this as the beginning of the end of brick and mortar schools because of this pandemic?

>> actually, i think it's the exact opposite.

What we see is that parents have really missed school, and children have really missed school and they want to get back to normal school.

Now i think we're certainly in an era where we're going to see more and more distance learned tunes in the future.

-- opportunities in the future and continue to be able to explore opportunities because of the power of the internet.

So an example would be that students who will get used to this learning and then find out that they can take an engineering course that is not offered at their rural high school, but they can take the course online and they've not done that previously because they didn't know what online learning was and maybe might have been afraid of it.

Now they'll say, that's not so bad.

I can take that course.

As far as day to day being at school, being a part of a school community, what we're hearing overwhelmingly from students and parents is they want to be back at school.

>> i had a question about equity and making sure that equity is maintained across all school boards in the state.

I'm wondering how do you plan on addressing to make sure everyone is receiving the same level of education, that it's maintained over if we see a second wave and cases seem to be worse in the state, and i wondered if you can also address specifically the cases of special needs children and children with disabilities.

How do you plan to make sure they're getting the same quality of education as everyone else?

>> sure.

So equity questions in alabama are not new.

We have been dealing for decades with inequitable opportunity because of inequitable resources across the state.

There are some communities that are 20 miles from a grocery store.

They may be 40 miles from a hospital and the schools they get have the same issues because it's hard to accrue teachers and get resources into some of the schools.

Then we have other schools that have hospitals close.

Grocery stores down the road.

They have lots more opportunities.

So equity is something we have been dealing with forever.

We will continue to deal with that throughout this coming year, and we'll continue to deal with it after the coronavirus is gone, trying to close inequity gaps and make sure we have equal opportunities or equitable opportunities for everyone across the state.

I've said before to have equal outcomes, you have to have inequitable inputs.

So we have to do more for some students to get equitable outcomes on the back end.

We'll continue to do that.

Also the part of the question about students in vulnerable populations and have special needs.

Children with special needs, who identify with special needs have an iep or individualized education program.

We call them that because they're individualized.

There is no one way to say in the state we're going to treat every child who has dyslexia the same way as every other child.

We'll treat every child who has a health -- particular health issue as the same way we treat every other child with a health issue.

The individualized plan has to drive the decisions made for that child.

That being said, we had some issues during this time because of things like social distancing.

So if a person needs to have physical therapy, how do you provide that in an environment where you need to have social distancing.

Of course dr. harris can explain better than i.

The medical community has come through valiantly on that.

Most of the questions have been answered and through the use of appropriate ppe and the right kinds of strategies, they can return to doing physical therapy and occupational therapy and those kind of things.

So fortunately we had a little bit of time to think through some of those and to get better ans answers.

>> this question is for dr. mackey.

I know we had numerous discussions about the intention to restart extra curricular activities.

Band, chorus, sports.

What will those be looking like for this fall?

I know we said every situation will be different.

How will those activities be looking this fall?

>> excellent.

We will have extra curricular activities and co-curricular activities on campus.

They will look different.

We're still working through those, and again, it might change from community to community.

I'll pick some out.

Choir.

I had a lot of conversations with music teachers and what choir will look like.

Many activities you can social distance.

Choir is not one that works well.

You need to have the voices close together and mixing tomorrow.

There are many activities you can do with a mask on.

Choir is not one of them that you can do well.

Those choir teachers are working through thinking how will we continue to have choral programs and make this work.

They have great ideas.

Ideas that i could not come up with.

That's why you have great music teachers doing that.

It won't look the same way as last year.

Competitions though.

I know that's a part of the question.

People want to know what about competition.

We have two schools coming together playing volleyball.

They're at a cross country meet on a saturday morning or as everybody wants to know, what about football.

Those activities will look different too but they will resume.

There are specific things we'll do, so for instance, football, we'll defer some of these exacts but the athletic association is working very closely with us.

The executive director.

Steve and i talked multiple times a week about things we're hearing.

Some are on the sec medical university board and work with major universities in the state.

They're working through safer protocols.

So, for instance, equipment.

The balls and the -- that they work with and other things, those will be cleaned as often as practical and possible.

There were early on some suggestions to clean the ball between every child touching it.

Well, anybody who played volleyball knows you can't do that and still play volleyball.

Can you use a clean ball every time there is a stop in the game.

So probably you can do that.

There are ways to make it safer and cleaner than what we have done before.

Can you social distance or physical distance the crowd?

Yes.

There are ways we can do that.

We saw that at graduations where families sat together but they were six feet away from the next family.

All across the state we saw that.

There are ways to make the gyms and stadiums safer for competition.

They're going to change some other rules to allow players on the sideline to social distance better and be -- so i think this is not a secret but one of the things we're talking about is that the players box in football is from the 30 yard line to the 30 yard line.

If you can extend that to the 20 or 10, then people can be more spread apart.

You can also limit.

I've been to many football games, and every time i go, i appreciate it very much.

They always ask me as the state superintendent if i want to stand on the sideline.

If i go to a game, i'm not going to stand on the sideline.

We don't need the local mayor on the sideline or the county commissioners on the sideline.

We don't need state legislators on the sideline.

If you're not coaching, we need to be distancing.

So there are ways we can reduce the congestion by reducing how many people are out there.

There are ways to continue the normal routines of our lives but they're going to look different than they looked in the past as we do things to keep ourselves safer.

>> if i can add on to that, i appreciate those comments very much.

Dr. mackey is right about that.

Things are going to look different.

I think it's really important for people to manage expectations about the fact that we will see outbreaks associated with these events.

I think that's likely to happen.

I think that's got to be a consideration as local officials make decisions about when to resume and how to resume.

I think it's quite likely that we'll see that at some point.

Doing everything possible we can to limit the contact people have within what's reasonable to do, you know, clearly as dr. mackey said, it's not possible to have athletics and not have any contact between people in most cases.

We really need people and encourage people to think through these things as carefully as possible to make sure we minimize the risk of transmission of disease to every extent we can.

>> i'll piggyback off what dr. harris said too.

And just remembering this.

So local jurisdiction rules will also apply.

We say that in our essential guidance.

It's law.

It's policy.

Or it's a local ordinance or a critical practice.

So we have about a half dozen cities talking before about a few more cities considering passing ordinances for facial coverings.

So if they pass an ordinance and they say if you have a volleyball game in our town, everyone is going to wear a facial covering.

Obviously we have to think about how that applies to students.

It's not always practical and i talked to many mayors and i know they're working through.

If they say folk in the stadium need to have them on, those rules apply in those jurisdictions.

We talked to superintendents about that.

Of course right now, it looks different as you travel from one jurisdiction to another because different come onties have different rules.

We will -- we certainly will abide by the rules established by those local town counsels and mayors and others that have the authority to do so.

>> my question is about -- i'm really short.

>> i can hear you.

>> about assessments and when we think about report cards and attendance and accountability, how are we going to track that for each district.

>> so the question is about accountability, assessment, report cards and how those things will happen from school district to school district.

Assessment is something we'll working on.

We'll begin formative assessments, and that's what we use to determine where a student is, what their academic level may be and what resources they may need immediately when school resumes in the fall.

We do have the opportunity to do some of our assessments remotely.

Because they're all online -- well, not all online.

I shouldn't say that.

They're mostly online.

We're working on that process now if a student can't come into the building, how do we make sure we can do the assessment.

To me they're much more important than the end of the year sumative test because the formative ones tell us where a child is and what the teacher can do to help the child improve their outcomes, their level.

We need to give those in the fall and we will.

Toward the end of the year, we'll wait and see what that looks like.

Of course the formal state given at the most of the end of school years was not given this year because president trump and secretary of education devos said we should forego the assessments.

Every state had the opportunity to do that and i think every state chose to do that.

Many people know that georgia, our sister state to the east already said they intend to not give standardized tests for this upcoming school year and they're negotiating with the federal government about that.

I've spoken to officials in georgia.

We are certainly following their story and seeing what is going on there.

That would be a decision that would have to come before our state school board unless we again got a mandate from washington over testing like we did this past year, so i don't know.

We'll have to see how that goes.

Then she mentioned about report cards, whether report cards -- the state report card this year will be, you know, mirror last year's record card because we didn't do standardized testing.

Obviously if the federal government or states don't do testing next year, then that will be something we'll have to deal with next year.

We'll have to follow that story as it breaks.

I do not know what the federal government will do on that, but again, i know the negotiations are going on and i know georgia has already said that

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