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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: 128097

Reported Deaths: 2264
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 178140

Reported Deaths: 2164
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby29521440
Davidson25652284
Hamilton889985
Rutherford877986
Knox857768
Williamson495635
Sumner458593
Wilson325938
Putnam292536
Montgomery288741
Bradley277916
Out of TN273623
Unassigned27356
Madison251055
Sevier246713
Blount238721
Maury213622
Robertson212634
Washington206828
Sullivan199131
Hamblen179825
Tipton168417
Trousdale16457
Hardeman149125
Wayne14735
Gibson143019
Bedford126715
Dyer121013
Dickson115612
Cumberland111216
Fayette109216
Carter108427
Loudon10746
Weakley107418
Anderson107211
Henderson106819
Obion10409
Greene103734
Jefferson102213
Coffee101511
McMinn100724
Macon99719
Warren9907
Monroe97516
Hardin92214
Lawrence91111
Lauderdale91014
Haywood88016
Lake8652
Bledsoe8384
Franklin8197
Roane7893
Carroll78716
Cheatham77610
McNairy76216
Rhea75411
Hawkins73115
White7288
Cocke7209
Marshall6794
Overton6583
Smith65510
Johnson6202
Henry5759
Lincoln5561
Chester5548
Giles54117
DeKalb53710
Hickman4934
Crockett48419
Marion4767
Decatur4276
Claiborne4144
Campbell4083
Fentress3823
Polk36911
Grainger3312
Benton3259
Union3001
Jackson2943
Morgan2933
Unicoi2641
Cannon2570
Humphreys2153
Sequatchie2113
Meigs2083
Grundy2035
Scott1882
Clay1685
Houston1630
Lewis1601
Van Buren1450
Moore1411
Stewart1352
Perry1340
Hancock1052
Pickett922

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