BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — In a letter addressed to parents Friday afternoon, Baldwin County Schools superintendent Eddie Tyler said rising COVID-19 cases could close schools in the near future, writing, “This week didn’t go as well as we hoped.”
The letter was sombre and direct.
“As we approach today,” Tyler wrote, “I’m hopeful we can just hold the course.”
Tyler credited the system’s 4,000 employees for working hard to keep schools open, but acknowledged the caseload is nearing levels that would force his hand.
“If we close a school,” Tyler wrote, “it will be the result of a contagious spread percentage that met the guidelines for closure, like any other communicable disease.”
Tyler also said without “significant improvement in our schools and our communities,” masks will remain a part of school life.
Will Baldwin Co. close schools due to Hurricane Ida?
Turning his attention to Hurricane Ida, Tyler wrote that a decision on whether or not to close schools because of the storm would be announced by 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29. Tyler said the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service would inform the decision.
Tyler reminded parents that a direct hit from a storm is not the only reason to close schools.
“We may need to close due to rising water on rural bus routes or to assess any damage before returning to schools,” Tyler wrote. “Dangerous conditions will dictate our decision. Please be alert to all weather announcements from local news organizations.”
The Baldwin County Commission had declared a local state of emergency that same day ahead of Ida.
‘Be prepared’ for COVID-19 and Ida-related closures
“Parents, during this time of challenge, you should be prepared with a plan on how to handle your children if we need to close a school in response to weather or COVID.” Tyler included that text in bold, highlighting the dual challenges facing Baldwin County, where one in three residents are fully vaccinated.
In the letter, Tyler promised not to close schools if possible, but added, “unsafe conditions, the inability to staff a school or a COVID exposure rate exceeding our threshold, will force me to make that decision.”
Tyler encouraged parents to go into the weekend with a close eye on both the weather conditions as Hurricane Ida churned toward landfall and COVID-19 numbers at local schools.
“If you see numbers at your school climbing into double digits over several days,” Tyler wrote, “I would have a plan ready to go!”