Students will return to a physical campus this fall.

But remote and blending learning options will also be available.

"There's nobody who should enter this school year thinking, 'Oh, this is going to be easy,'" Alabama State Department of Education superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said in a press conference this morning. "This is going to be the most difficult school year we have ever faced ... We are determined to do it, not because it's easy but we're determined to do it because we have students who are counting on us. ... We have to do it."

Due to about 15% of parents feeling uncomfortable sending their children back to school this fall, a remote learning option will be available. 

Mackey said the department was allocated $18 million to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic and he said a large chunk of that was used to purchase a "very good, well-vetted curriculum" that will be available to every school in the state for students in pre-K to 12th grade.  

This is a statewide digital curriculum that will consist of high-quality remote learning delivered by the local teacher. Students will still be enrolled in their local schools but simply learning in a different way.

A blended option will also be available for students.

There will be times where a student has to go home — if he or she tests positive, etc. — and that's when the blended option will come into play.

There will also be professional development for teachers in every school district in order to help them deliver this virtual learning.   

Students all learn differently and that's something the state understands.

"It is much different to put a 16-year-old on remote learning than a 6-year-old," Mackey said. 

Mackey said as a former teacher, he understands that firsthand, and that's why the department bought the best curriculum possible.

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He said plans will look different for each school district based on a variety of circumstances but this roadmap is meant to be a guideline so every student gets the best equal learning opportunity as possible.

Mackey also said students with special needs will be catered to with individual education plans (IEP) as they always are. 

"We call it IEP because it is individualized," Mackey said. "That individualized plan has to drive the decisions that are made for that child. ... We have to do more for some students in order to get equal outcomes on the back end."

Alabama Department of Public Health state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said hard, fast rules are impossible to set when the status of the COVID-19 pandemic changes every single day.

That's why the state department of education, along with a large team, came up with this roadmap as a guide.

This 50-page roadmap is based on expertise and experience and is not a mandate by the state, Mackey said. He said a variety of people with different backgrounds pulled together to ensure this was a comprehensive, competent plan.

Mackey said this roadmap is not a remote learning playbook or school closure rulebook in its entirety.

"This is not an exhaustive list of every action school leaders will need to take this year," Mackey said. "It's there to help, not an answer to everything."

The roadmap focuses on three areas: wellness, operations and facilities, and instruction and technology. 

Working under the recommendation of local superintendents and public health officials will be key this school year, Mackey said. He reiterated local jurisdiction rules will apply.

The state is continuing to look at resources, such as WiFi on school buses, and other options.

Editor's Note: This story will be updated. The ALSDE said the full 50-page plan will be available on its website but the site seems to be having technical difficulties.