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Education Department launches new task force to assist school districts

The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) announced Wednesday that State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey is assembling a Superintendent’s Extending Access to Learning (SEAL) Task Force consisting of educators and other state partners across the state to assist districts reeling from COVID-19-related closures.

The first task force meeting is slated for Thursday and the group will continue to meet virtually every week until further notice. 

According to an ALSDE press release, the task force will “lead the state’s efforts to identify short- and long-term priorities for schoolwide operations, both functionally and instructionally.”

“We know there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to schoolwide operations, so this task force will help us ensure that statewide guidance encompasses multiple facets for all of Alabama’s districts,” Mackey said in the release. “While we do not know what the future holds, we want to assure Alabama’s educators, parents, students and community stakeholders that we are committed to helping all of our districts get through these uncertain times while identifying and offering access to all available resources, both operational and educational, through a variety of delivery methods.”

The task force will start by identifying “research-based learning pathways and resources” capable of serving all state school districts, evaluating the capacity of current “non-traditional” instructional delivery methods in the state and developing a statewide plan for short- and long-term implementation.

Additionally, the group will prioritize specific operational and instructional components that must be addressed to ensure that, once schools open, students are prepared for the next step, whether that be college or career plans or simply advancing from one grade to the next.

“Just as individual communities rally around their families during challenging times, Alabama’s education community is no different,” Mackey said. “We all want to provide our children with all of the resources they need during this time, but it will take a collaborative effort of this magnitude to be successful. Our ultimate goal is to supply consistent communications, quality instructional plans to help students maintain learning momentum during this closure period and minimize the disruption to the extent possible for all students.”

As of Wednesday, all 142 Alabama public school districts were closed and had provided students with short-term “optional enrichment learning activities” through various mediums, whether hard copies, digital methods or a combination of the two.

Mackey noted that all Alabamians should be prepared for the possibility that schools will be forced to stay closed beyond the scheduled Monday, April 6, reopening.

If that scenario becomes reality, the task force will be prepared to provide districts with short- and long-term options for continuing to educate Alabama’s children.