State superintendent says COVID-19 infections ‘perfect storm’ in Alabama’s schools

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MONTGOMERY, Ala (WIAT) – As the number of COVID-19 cases in students in the state continues to surge, many educators and parents are worried schools could be nearing a breaking point.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey says the COVID-19 situation in schools is getting more difficult by the day. 

“Multiple times a day, we are getting calls from superintendents that they are going to have to close a school, or either a part of a school, or in some cases just a grade level, and I’ve gotten several more today,” Mackey said.  

Mackey said while he and his staff expected to see possible surges of COVID-19 during the school year, they didn’t think it would happen so quickly with the spread of the Delta variant.

“We really had the perfect storm that this spike hit the exact same time our schools were opening which of course caused us to have to go into our alternate plans,” Mackey said.

Those alternate plans include virtual learning, although Mackey says no school has made that decision permanent for the remainder of the semester. Plus, just because a school must close due to COVID-19, it doesn’t mean every student has been exposed to the virus. 

“There’s enough of an outbreak in the community, there are enough adults, teachers, cafeteria workers, so forth that have COVID-19 or have close contacts so they are not able to safely and effectively operate the school,” Mackey said.

Mackey also said he had hoped more adults would be vaccinated at this point which would have mitigated the spread of the disease. However, that hasn’t proven to be the case. And he wants to remind parents he alone does not have the power to impose a mask mandate for any system and it’s up to local school boards to do so.

“Making the decision based on the information they have that that’s the best thing for their community,” Mackey said.

As for a mask mandate, both the state health officer and Governor Ivey have repeatedly stated they have no plans to re-impose one statewide.  

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