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Alabama Public Television celebrates 65th year by continuing mission during pandemic

When schools statewide suddenly shut their doors in March, Alabama Public Television (APT) was the shot in the arm many educators needed to keep students on track.

“We immediately saw that we had the tools to make a difference when schools closed: our broadcasts that could reach students around the state, and particularly those without computer or broadband access, and our already very rich online programs and resources for educators,” said Mike McKenzie, director of Programming and Public Information. “I have never seen a group of people work so hard and so fast as we shifted the schedule, reprogrammed the website and stepped in to help teachers, students and parents.”

Alabama Public Television has been broadcasting for 65 years. (contributed)

Sixty-five years ago, Alabama was the first state with an educational television network as APT became a model for 26 states and several countries that copied its system. Television and education have dramatically changed since 1955, but McKenzie said recent revisions to meet pandemic demands don’t represent an expansion for APT but rather a realigning of resources. The largest segment of APT staff has always been in its education department.

“With classrooms closed, we became the classroom, and we shifted the daytime schedule to accommodate that,” said McKenzie, a familiar face to viewers during APT televised fundraising drives. “And we will continue to adapt to meet the state’s needs. Right now kids are getting a boost into the next school year with our online Summer Fun activities, and we’re working with the State Department of Education now to decide what resources will be needed to help students the most, however schools decide to move forward.”


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