Decatur City Schools announced Thursday afternoon that schools will temporarily shift to virtual learning.
We heard from the district’s superintendent in a news conference at 4 p.m. There are currently 67 positive coronavirus cases among students and staff and 931 people quarantining.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Douglas said students are scheduled to come back from winter break on Jan. 5 and do virtual learning through Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Students will be able to resume face-to-face learning on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
"The idea is to get zero positives. So, I don't mind quarantining 800, but we went up 30 positives this week and it just seems irresponsible to continue that. So, that's why we made the transition," Douglas said.
Douglas said the district has evidence of active spread of coronavirus within schools, and they don’t have enough staff right now for all buildings.
8th grader Elizabeth McCool said she doesn't mind the virtual shift, but hoped the COVID impact won't negatively impact spring sports.
"I was kind of excited, but also I just don't want it to get in the way of my soccer season and my sports," McCool said.
During the news conference, Decatur City Schools Athletic Director Watt Parker said they hope to allow winter sports to continue, but with some additional precautions.
"We've been very, very conscious of our numbers in all of our events, so we're even going to reduce those a little bit more and just continue with our cleaning, continue with our separation, continue with our guidance," Parker said.
He added that right now, the girls varsity basketball program at Decatur High School is shut down due to COVID impacts along with both the varsity and junior varsity the cheer programs at Austin High School.
McCool's younger sister, Brigid, said among her friends, they think virtual might bring about some normalcy for those who have been bouncing between multiple substitute teachers.
"It's just been a really tough year because especially my class has been jumping substitutes and finally I hope we get a final teacher to make everything easier," Bridget said.
Dr. Yvette Evans, the deputy superintendent for instruction, said on Thursday that creating structure for students will be critical as virtual learning begins.
"Parents should continue to support their child or their children during this time when we are virtual, they need to keep a regular schedule and try to have a designated place for them to sit and study and just try to keep as much normality as possible," Evans said.
As students begin virtual learning on Monday, mothers like Jennifer Pumphrey said she and her friends are preparing the best they can for their children to learn at home, understanding that it will be challenging.
"It's hard for a lot of parents to do. It's overwhelming sometimes, but it's the safest thing at this point to do so that maybe come January we can eventually get back to the school and get back to the 'new normal,'" Pumphrey said.
Schools have cancelled fall semester exams. Meanwhile, meals for students will still be distributed during the virtual learning period. More information on where families can pick up the free food will be sent out on Friday.