By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Due to the increase of COVID-19 cases throughout the United States, Alabama and Etowah County, Gadsden City Schools will commence studies virtually from August 17 until further notice.
After a three-hour deliberation on Friday July 17, Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Tony Reddick noted that while not everyone initially agreed with the decision, all board and staff members conceded to support the plan moving forward. Reddick commended the Gadsden City Board of Education and the GCBOE’s central office staff for their dedication and efforts to create a plan with the children’s best interest at heart.
The plan for Gadsden City Schools is designed for educators to teach as if students were listening in front of them in their seats, albeit virtually. Despite students learning from home, educators will teach from their classrooms, at their schools, acclimating themselves to a new sanitized environment. When teachers attend in-service training in early August, they will begin preparing for online-based learning while practicing for the day their students return to the classroom.
“I want you to understand without a doubt my primary concern is about the safety of our children,” said Reddick. “I know that there have been some concerns expressed about loss of instruction. One thing I know for sure, we can recover from instruction. We cannot recover from loss of life. That is what is most important to me when it comes to the decision as to whether or not to open school for face-to-face instruction.”
Reddick emphasized that he wants Gadsden City Schools’ teachers back in their schools, classrooms and environments, but he also wants to protect the integrity of the school system’s instructional staff. By the time the original August 11 back-to-school date arrives, Gadsden City teachers will have been out of their schools for 19 weeks.
Reddick addressed the concern expressed regarding Gadsden City teachers receiving pay during those 19 weeks while other individuals lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Reddick noted that he does not intend to penalize anyone, but the teachers were performing their jobs and will continue to do so come August.
“Here is the problem that I have – kids may not come back at all,” said Reddick. “Therefore, we don’t want to have started school face-to-face instruction only to find out we have to stop all over again, and then train the students who hadn’t already been instructed remotely. Now that everybody is being instructed the same way, if there is a clo-sure of school, we’ll still be on track.”
Childcare remains one of the most pressing concerns for parents and teachers alike regarding virtual instruction. Reddick discussed the possibility of opening up school gymnasiums where staff who are not consistently engaged in instruction (such as physical education or career tech teachers) can oversee a form of childcare.
For those not so keen about that idea, Reddick suggested that parents consider identifying trustworthy high school juniors or seniors who are church members, neighbors or children of colleagues to assist with childcare. Since all students from kindergarten through 12th grade will receive remote instruction, partnering with responsible high schoolers would allow those students to acquire volunteer hours for college applications. Reddick encouraged parents who choose this option to consider creating a stipend for the high schoolers or writing a letter of recommendation for the juniors or seniors as they enter their respective universities.
Despite the differing opinions on the current situation, all board members, teachers and parents are unified in their desire for Gadsden City students to receive instruction without compromising their health or safety.
“I am very open to everybody’s concerns about this situation,” said Reddick. “As I said, we can replace instruction. We can make up for instruction. We cannot make up for loss of life. On that premise, we presented this new plan. I hope that you will accept it, embrace it and work with us on trying to solve any problems that may arise as a result.”