BLOUNT COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — The school bell is ringing for several Central Alabama school districts heading back to the classroom.
On Thursday, Blount County, Cleburne County, Randolph County and Roanoke City Schools are making their way back.
Teachers and staff are working to make this year as normal as possible in Blount County with as much in person instruction as possible.
Last year ended with four days a week in person and one virtual day as schools got a deep clean on Mondays.
Superintendent Rodney Green says this year will be like last year, but the district is much more well equipped to handle and deal with COVID cases when they enter the schools.
If students must stay home and quarantine, teachers have plans in place for them to get their assignments done online so they can quarantine for a 10-day period and go back after 24 hours without any symptoms of the virus.
This year masks are optional in the district.
“I think that is the decision that fits our district right now the best, but we’re going to monitor that carefully and look at our COVID cases over the next few weeks,” Green said.
Green is strongly encouraging masks for anyone heading back to the classroom as they play an important role protecting both students and employees.
Following new guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health, if anyone gets sick with COVID and was wearing a mask staying more than three feet apart, he or she does not have to quarantine. The superintendent said if you are vaccinated you do not have to quarantine if you are exposed to the virus and adhere to these guidelines.
Green said this will be a gamechanger to keep kids in the classroom this year.
“Those are major changes if people would consider the vaccination and/or wear a mask, it could really cut down the number of students that have to quarantine,” he said.
Last year started with over 2,000 students doing remote learning, but by the end of the school year, Green said only about 400 kept up with that option. After surveying parents this summer and having about 1,000 students in summer school, Green said the best option for now is to keep an optional mask policy and keep in person learning.
“We’re going to try to do everything that we can to eliminate any kind of risk, but if we have any COVID cases, and we will, we are going to notify parents immediately if their child is a close contact or if their child has been in a classroom where there’s been a positive,” Green said.
If you are still concerned about sending your child back in person, there is a bridge academy offered for students in Blount County in grades 9-12. Green also said the best thing to do is to have your child wear a mask.
The district will continue to monitor the pandemic and COVID cases in the buildings and notify families immediately of any changes to policies.