Huntsville, Madison schools prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak

Huntsville and Madison City schools say they are monitoring the situation.

Posted: Mar 10, 2020 7:46 AM
Updated: Mar 10, 2020 9:19 AM

The Alabama Department of Public Health says it performed at least 10 tests for coronavirus over the weekend. 

Thankfully, all of those tests came back negative and Alabama still has no cases. But with 12 states already declaring a state of emergency, local school systems are putting plans in place to keep students safe.

The Huntsville City School District sent a letter home to parents detailing a contingency plan for school trips, activities and possible closures.

Right now, Huntsville City Schools has no plans to close since there are no reported cases in the state. But if that changes, they plan to continue curriculum at home using district-issued laptops and programs already in place.

They have went ahead and canceled all international trips this month and have canceled a few domestic school trips. They will continue to evaluate each trip as new information is received.

For now, the district is monitoring developments within the state and will only put the plan into action if necessary.

The Madison City Schools system says it also continues to monitor the situation and how to respond to best protect students and the community. You can read a letter from the superintendent here.

Here is the letter from Huntsville City Schools in full:

Dear HCS Family,

I am writing to update you about our efforts concerning coronavirus (COVID-19). The Huntsville City Board of Education and I hold the safety and health of our students, staff, families, and community above all else. With that in mind, my team and I have been working in anticipation of the implementation of measures like those we have seen from other state governments and school systems from around the country.

Being Prepared

Although the State of Alabama has not yet declared a state of emergency, in those states where such a declaration has occurred, school has not been canceled statewide. Instead, each district has made their own local decision based on the presence of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their community. We anticipate that a similar approach would be taken in Alabama. Given that we have not had a confirmed case in our community, we are not at this time planning to close schools. My team has developed contingency plans to serve our students while minimizing the risk of exposure to and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), discussed below.

Instruction During An Extended School Closure

Given the rapidly changing nature of this serious health concern, we must be prepared for the possibility of a short-notice closure of schools. To do this, my team is working with schools to ensure that students are able to continue their coursework at home in the event of a school closure.

As you know, our students in grades three through twelve have access to district-issued laptops and currently use Clever and Canvas in their classes. These programs allow our students to access daily instruction and to complete course work. To ensure consistency for our students, our contingency plan will include the use of these familiar programs. Our teachers are trained on these platforms, and they will be able to use these programs to help our students in the event of a school closure.

The District will place assignments on the District’s webpage for students in kindergarten through second grade. If needed, teachers will provide families with additional instructions needed to complete the assignments.

For students with limited access to the internet, our contingency plan calls for the use of hard copy materials. Please let your teacher know if you will need access to hard copies.

International School Trips

Given the circumstances in the countries our students were planning to visit and the increasing number of issues here, all international school trips for the rest of March are canceled. I understand the frustration that many of you may feel about this, but we believe this is the best decision for our students. Our schools are aware of this cancellation. If you have any questions, please reach out to the faculty sponsor of the trip or your school principal.

Domestic School Trips

As I mentioned in my earlier letter, we are evaluating each trip on a case-by-case basis. We are continuing to monitor information shared by the World Health Organization, the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. State Department, the Alabama State Department of Education, and the Alabama State Department of Public Health, and basing our decisions on what we believe to be in the best interest of student safety. Although we have canceled few trips at this time, we will continue to evaluate each trip as new information is received. Schools will share specific information about field trips with their families.

This is subject to change with relatively short notice. If this changes, your school will let you know as soon as possible.

Extracurricular Activities (Sports, Performances, etc.)

One of the main reasons for the measures in this letter is to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to protect our most vulnerable populations. Once a community has confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important to minimize the number of large gatherings. There are many normal spring school activities that lead to large gatherings including sporting events, choral and theater performances, Greenpower events, etc.

If we become aware of a risk of exposure, we will take steps to limit or temporarily cancel extracurricular activities. This may include total cancellation of events. As with other things discussed in this letter, we will let you know as soon as possible of any cancellations.

Regarding rescheduling of events, the AHSAA just released guidance for districts. That guidance included the rescheduling of games with playoff implications. Our schools have been informed of this guidance, and our athletic directors for each school will work with the District team to reschedule these games.

Link to AHSAA letter: http://www.ahsaa.com/Portals/0/MEMO-%20COVID-19%20v1.pdf

Conclusion

As always, thank you for your commitment to our schools, and thank you for working with us. We will do our best to update you as quickly as possible during this situation.

For updates please see: https://www.huntsvillecityschools.org/coronavirus

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