Alabama students deserve best education options despite pandemic

By PAUL DeMARCO | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

When schools shut down in Alabama last March, it was hard for students and teachers to imagine that they would not return back to the classroom until the next school year.

Yet, with the coronavirus hitting at its highest levels this summer, there now is a question of what school will look like when students return back this fall to study. In addition, there is even discussion of beginning school at a later date than the traditional early August start date.

Last week, the Alabama State School Superintendent announced schools would reopen but that decisions would be made by local school districts and parents. Each school system around the state is unique and has to determine what will work best for the students they have to educate.

Surveys of parents around the state were mixed on whether they wanted in class instruction or on line remote learning.

Alabama spends millions of dollars on state schools and yet Alabama academic achievement ranks near last in the Nation. Now add the hurdles of the pandemic, and educators have an even bigger hill to climb.

Yet, parents need to hold state and local leaders accountable to make accommodations for students to get the best education they can despite the pandemic. Some students or their parents or siblings are more at risk if they get the coronavirus, and parents are having to make tough choices on how to keep their families safe while also providing their children the opportunity for a good education.

Teachers, many in vulnerable categories due to age or health issues, likewise are facing touch choices about the best way to keep themselves and their families safe. Some eligible teachers may likely choose to retire depending on what or how their school systems choose to go forward.

School systems must balance ensuring all students and teachers will  be safe, while trying to provide a strong academic learning experience for every child.

We must get this right.

The future academic success of Alabama students depends on it.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.