North Alabama schools prepare for multiple scenarios as students return to class during pandemic

Students in two county school districts will start classes on August 7th.

Posted: Aug 6, 2020 5:16 PM
Updated: Aug 6, 2020 10:32 PM

Friday, students in Limestone and Jackson County return to the classroom for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic. In the coming weeks schools from the Shoals to Sand Mountain will start back for in person classes.

Many superintendents told WAAY 31 they have a lot of pressure on their shoulders with the start of this new school year. The state did not issue strong guidelines on what to do in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

The department of public health suggested districts may “likely dismiss students” but left every decision including case count to each individual district. The state department of public health does suggest closing schools if 20 percent of students are out with the flu.

"Typically in a bad weather event you shutdown an entire school system that's not the way we are going to approach this just because this is another one of the unknowns we don't know how difficult this will be once we all get together," said Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent Chad Holden.

"It could be that we shutdown a classroom. It could be that we shutdown a school while the rest of the district continues to operate or if the absenteeism is high enough we may shut down an entire district. Because we fully expect there to be covid cases and exposures. I mean there is no way around it."

Muscle Shoals is starting the school year with an alternating schedule cutting the number of students in half. Another 17% have chosen to take virtual only classes. Holden said the district bought sanitizing fog machines, hand sanitizer, and all the other cleaning supplies.

He's preparing his teachers for virtual at the drop of a hat, too.

"We've instructed our teachers to have two week's worth of lessons prepared at any time for if the teacher has to go home because their positive or exposed or if the classroom has to go home because of a positive case or exposure," said Holden.

In the Shoals some school systems have had teachers or staff members test positive for the virus since it started. Florence City Schools told WAAY 31 the last employee who caught the virus tested positive in June. Over in Madison City Schools students there will be virtual learning the first nine weeks.

Madison City Schools said since July 1st they've had 14 employees test positive for the virus. In Jackson County Schools, Superintendent Kevin Dukes told the WAAY31 from June 1st to August 5th they've had 3 coaches test positive.

Holden said they have had some success this summer with the districts four-week camp. Not a single student or staff member got the virus, but it's still something about which he worries.

"One of the greatest concerns I have is staffing because if we don't have enough adults in the building to supervise the kids we can't have school," said Holden. "Every superintendent in the state is going to navigate this challenge at some point but to what level that's going to be the tough part is how widespread does it become?"

In Georgia, the state's largest school district already saw about 300 teachers and staff members test positive. Holden said an outbreak like that would be a nightmare scenario.

"Even with our substitute list we don't have enough on our sub list to staff an entire school and so if we had a widespread outbreak among staff members we would have to look at going virtual just because we don't have enough adults to staff it," said Holden.

Holden said they contract with a local Shoals company to get substitute. You must pass a background check and have a substitute teaching license in the state of Alabama to be a sub.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 135554

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 192995

Reported Deaths: 2377
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30953459
Davidson26630306
Hamilton951995
Knox949779
Rutherford936189
Williamson531036
Sumner486598
Wilson351945
Putnam334940
Montgomery311144
Unassigned30425
Out of TN298627
Bradley296217
Madison292164
Sevier263815
Blount253524
Maury240924
Washington232836
Robertson222535
Sullivan219733
Hamblen193926
Tipton183219
Gibson170423
Trousdale16667
Hardeman158226
Wayne14995
Dyer138714
Bedford136417
Dickson127415
Coffee125413
Cumberland121718
Weakley120519
Fayette120419
Anderson120013
Obion119110
Henderson118924
Loudon11846
Carter117728
Greene116144
McMinn114625
Jefferson113014
Warren10757
Lawrence106713
Macon106721
Monroe105218
Hardin104716
Lauderdale99416
Haywood99221
Franklin9899
Lake9252
Roane9055
Carroll89920
McNairy89618
Bledsoe8624
White8479
Rhea84412
Hawkins82218
Cheatham81510
Marshall7785
Overton7586
Cocke7549
Smith73111
Johnson7262
Chester64310
Giles63117
Henry6289
Lincoln6241
Hickman5938
DeKalb57014
Crockett54219
Marion5338
Decatur5307
Fentress5263
Campbell4544
Claiborne4425
Polk39910
Grainger3863
Union3642
Benton3379
Jackson3315
Morgan3203
Grundy3095
Cannon2920
Unicoi2891
Humphreys2583
Sequatchie2381
Clay2335
Meigs2283
Houston2243
Scott2172
Stewart2142
Lewis2041
Moore1791
Van Buren1660
Perry1530
Pickett1232
Hancock1083

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