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Schools to finish year through alternative methods

The next few months will present unusual challenges for Alabama schools as Gov. Kay Ivey announced in a press conference Thursday that all Alabama schools will stay closed for the remainder of the school year.

Schools have been closed since March 19, with all learning being optional, but beginning April 6 all students will resume education through alternative methods.

“We just ask all parents and students to be patient with us during this time,” said Franklin County Schools Superintendent Greg Hamilton. “This is uncharted territory for everyone, so we just ask that everyone be patient with us as we figure out how is going to be the best way for us to educate your kids during this time.”

School systems have until April 6 to develop a plan for the best way to continue classes, which includes alternative methods such as moving classes online and sending out information packets.

Hamilton said moving classes outside of a traditional classroom will be challenging for Franklin County Schools because of the number of students who might not have access to internet.

“We have to make sure we offer equal education to all, and there are a lot of students who do not have access to internet,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said Franklin County Schools are going to send take-home packets for students to have school work in a traditional paper-and-pencil format, with students printing as much information as is economically feasible.

“The hardest part about this is there is nothing that can replace a traditional classroom setting and that face-to-face teacher interaction,” Hamilton said.

Russellville City Schools is surveying students and parents about their access to internet and technology before deciding on the best method to reach students.

“This is uncharted territory for everyone,” Russellville City Superintendent Heath Grimes echoed, “and we hope you will remain patient and supportive as we all work together to navigate this completely new educational atmosphere.

We want all of our students to know that we have some of the most dedicated and talented faculty in the state, who are all committed to making sure you can finish this school year strong,” Grimes added. We know this isn’t what anyone envisioned for the conclusion to the 2019-2020 school year, but we will get through this together.

As school buildings remain closed, FCS and RCS will continue serving meals to students as they have during the past two weeks.

While some parents have used this once-temporary, now-permanent school closure as an extended break for their children, other parents wanted to personally work with their children to ensure they continued to make progress in school during this time.

“I knew that I wanted to have my kids doing something educational at this time,” said parent of two, Emily Rush. “I wanted to make sure they stayed on track and were ready for whenever school starts back.”

Rush is no stranger to teaching children, as she is the choral director for Russellville City Schools, but she said this experience has been completely different.

“I’m not used to having to teach this, so it is a completely different ballgame,” Rush said. “I definitely have more of an appreciation for her teachers.”

Rush said she is taking the time to enjoy spending time with her kids while trying to give them a routine that dedicates part of the day to reading and learning.

Grimes said it is important to take time out of the day to continue students’ education, and even an hour of reading each day can make a huge difference.

Rush said teaching her two has been a challenge since they are in different grades and have different interest levels and attention spans.

“My youngest is in Pre-K, and she isn’t interested right now in learning to write her name or reading because she just wants her sister to play with her,” Rush said. “With her, we are just doing what we can and enjoying the time we have together.”

Rush said on the other side of the spectrum, her oldest daughter was excited to continue learning and welcomed the opportunity.

“One big thing in third grade is multiplication tables, so I told her we are not going to forget any of our multiplication tables while school is out,” Rush said.

Rush said she has been taking advantage of a program she knows several classes use called Imagine Learning. “As a teacher and as a parent, I at least want to give my child the opportunity to at least remember what she has already learned,” Rush said.

As school starts back April 6 with students learning in a home setting, Rush said she feels prepared to help her children as they continue their education at home.

“This has been different for me, but I have enjoyed the time I have gotten to spend with my girls.”