BIRMINGHAM Ala. (WIAT) — Thousands of Alabama students are preparing to head back to the classroom this week after being out for Winter Break. The time off has caused some concern with an uptick of COVID-19 cases being seen nationwide.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said he is worried about how many students or staff will return back from the winter break with COVID-19, especially because of the high transmission of the Omicron variant.

Some school districts, as a precautionary measure, are choosing to hold E-learning/virtual days for the first week to help prevent potential COVID-19 spread post the winter break holiday. Dr. Mackey said there are less than a dozen school districts in the state participating in this. His message to parents is to watch children for COVID-19 symptoms as they are returning back to school and consult your medical provider if you have concerns.

“We are concerned that as we have more positive cases we will end up in situations where we simply have to close schools because there are just not enough adults to work in schools because of quarantines and those kind of things. We are certainly hoping schools will stay open for in-class instruction as much as possible,” Dr. Mackey said.

Dr. Mackey said although the CDC announced the five day quarantine rules are now in effect, that does not apply to schools. So, the district is maintaining the same protocol as before. Dr. Mackey said, thanks to many people vaccinated against COVID-19, he does not foresee any major mass shutdown in schools statewide. He continued to push this year for children and faculty to get vaccinated as well.

The Sylacauaga School district is among less than a dozen school districts in Alabama choosing to begin the semester with E-learning days the first 3 days of school. Supt. Dr. Michele Eller said she is tracking the COVID-19 numbers through the Jefferson County Health Department to determine how her district handles COVID-19 cases.

She also uses health data directly from the Sylacauga community. If numbers don’t significantly rise in the city this week students will return back to the classroom on Monday. Dr. Eller says she uses professional medical feedback to help in her decision making when it comes to school being open.

Dr. Eller said overall parents have been positive over the E-learning days because of COVID-19 concerns. This week, she has already begun hearing from employees and students who have contracted COVID-19 over the break and she said this further showcases she made the right decision with the district’s in-person start date.