With just over a week left to decide, parents with students in Huntsville City Schools are making the difficult choice about whether to send their students to the classroom or keep them home and use the new Huntsville Virtual Academy.
Monique Gaines said she's still on the fence when it comes to her second-grade daughter, Olivia.
"I don't want to send her to school to get sick, but at the same time, I still have to put food on the table and work and the two have a moment to clash," Gaines said.
Olivia is a magnet student at the Academies for Science and Foreign Language. Gaines said she's leaning toward the virtual option for her daughter.
She acknowledges that because this is a brand new system for the district, everyone is figuring it out together.
"I have to be able to give them that much a leeway with it, but even with that in mind, there are still so many unanswered questions as to how things are going to be done," Gaines said.
During Thursday's special school board meeting, the faculty went through several points of the virtual academy to try and answer some of those questions.
So far, about 5,000 students have signed up for the virtual option. That's up about 400 from Wednesday, according to the district. Brandy Curry said her son, Jordan, will be among them.
"It wasn't easy for me, but then I was thinking to myself, like I said before, I was blessed because I'm able to be at home and he has a grandmother who is a retired school teacher. So when I'm not here, she can come and help him with school work," Curry said.
Jordan will be a sophomore this year. He said he will miss being at Jemison High School this fall. He also expressed some concerns on Thursday about the virtual option.
"I'm not excited cause I would like to be inside the building with my friends, but I'm kind of nervous about online too cause if I need help, I won't have a teacher there to help and be on me," Jordan said.
At Thursday's meeting, administrators assured that at all grade levels, there would be opportunities throughout the day for students to interact with teachers.
Parents and students were also given a glimpse at what the web interface of the Huntsville Virtual Academy will look like and operate. They said teachers will be able to start setting up profiles on Monday.
During the meeting, the staff also highlighted some updates to the student-parent handbook regarding some safety procedures. One such change included extending the exclusion period for a student having either a fever of 100 degrees or more and respiratory issues.
That period is now "72 hours after the last episode of cough or shortness of breath or proof of a negative COVID-19 test."
Even so, some parents are still struggling over what to do with their children in the fall.
"I still just feel like there's something else. What? I don't know...I don't know. So I really have to go on a faith and really do some more research and figure out how I really feel about it," Gaines said.
The Huntsville City Schools Board of Education said it expects to receive more advice from the state when State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey releases additional guidance, which is expected on Friday.
The first day of school for the district is August 17. The board said they may hold an additional stop-gap board meeting a week from this Tuesday to make sure they are able to put all the changes that are needed into effect.