Friday, WAAY 31 learned the Colbert County school district is trying to partner with local churches to offer students WiFi because of a massive change for the start of the school year.
The district announced a staggered and alternating beginning that includes three days a week of virtual learning.
Colbert County School Superintendent Dr. Gale Satchel said the district made the change because of the current coronavirus risk in the Shoals and the health department’s advice on social distancing.
"I have approximately 2,600 students, but at the end of the year I could have less than that because someone lost their life to COVID 19. And that's one of the things that keeps me up at night," said Satchel.
"It is hard knowing that we can't protect anyone and we can't put everyone in a bubble. That's the thing that worries me the most, that we can lose someone to COVID 19 and we open the doors to the schools."
Satchel said it's too risky having all students, faculty, and staff on campus at the same time for eight hours or more. Friday, Colbert County went from High Risk to Moderate Risk on the state's risk indicator, but Helen Keller Hospital said its coronavirus ICU unit saw an increase in patients the last two weeks.
"At the rate that we are in Colbert County with a high alert we feel that this is the best and safest option," said Satchel.
Here is what the first week of Colbert County Schools looks like for first through 12th graders returning to traditional classrooms: Only students with a last name that starts with an A-H go to school Aug. 24, only I-P Aug. 25, and only Q-Z Aug. 26.
Then they’re split into two groups.
That first Thursday (Aug. 27) is Group A. That Friday (Aug. 28) is Group B.
Starting August 31st, group a students go traditional Mondays and Tuesdays. Group B Thursdays and Fridays. Everyone goes virtual on Wednesdays for deep-cleaning.
This is scheduled to last at least the first nine weeks of school.
"There are a lot of what if's and we wanted to cover those what if's in smaller numbers," said Satchel.
As for the virtual school aspect. Satchel said the district is working to get families who need it WiFi hot spots.