MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In the wake of the tragic deaths of four educators related to complications from COVID-19, Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore announced Monday that all students will resume virtual learning and educators will begin working remotely on Feb. 1 until the vaccine is made available to all MPS employees, including educators and staff who work directly with students. This is welcome news for educators who have been demanding the option to work from home to keep themselves and their families safe.
The following statement is from Michael Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Children’s Rights Project.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that several MPS educators who devoted their lives to serving students in our community have died just in the past week from complications related to COVID-19. Our hearts mourn for their families, friends, students and colleagues.
“Since March, MPS has struggled to find a balance between keeping students and school employees safe during the pandemic and meeting the needs of thousands of students across the majority Black school district. But the piecemeal and short-term solutions that have characterized the district’s COVID-19 response is putting far too many lives at risk. Educators, students and staff are in desperate need of a plan.
“While acknowledging the significant resource challenges that have plagued MPS for decades, we implore the Board and Superintendent Moore, in coordination with the Mayor and other local leaders, to outline a full plan of action in the coming days to protect the health and safety of the entire school community and to meaningfully address opportunity gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for BIPOC students, students with disabilities and those living in poverty.
“We also urge State Superintendent Eric Mackey and other state leaders to work with school districts across the state to develop a plan and hold local leaders accountable. At the same time, the state must do its part to ensure that Montgomery has full access to its share of the federal COVID relief funding to support their efforts, and that these resources are used to first and foremost prioritize the safety and well-being of its school community.
“Educators and students can no longer afford to wait. They all deserve a plan now. We cannot risk any more lives.
“As parents, educators, and active members of the Montgomery community, SPLC stands ready to support MPS in the development and implementation of a plan to protect educators and staff and ensure equitable access to a high-quality education for all students.”
In May 2020, the SPLC Action Fund and other groups sent a letter warning Mackey and Governor Kay Ivey that without a strategic investment of resources, the opportunity gap between students could widen during the pandemic due to inequities in access to technology, space to learn and caretaker support. The letter urged the state to direct its share of CARES Act funding to schools and students with the highest need. As Alabama is set to receive $800 million in additional relief funds urgently needed by districts across the state, this call to action is more urgent than ever to ensure Alabama students and educators stay safe and supported while they continue the important work of teaching and learning.