MONTGOMERY, Ala (WIAT) – As the COVID crisis continues to hit schools in Alabama, could a statewide return to virtual learning be close at hand?

Alabama’s State School Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey says he knows many school systems are struggling to keep classrooms open as COVID-19 infections surge.

“Mostly they are closing down because there are not enough adults to keep the schools open,” Mackey said.

Mackey says while more school systems are requiring masks, the number of unvaccinated adults who are becoming infected, or being forced to go into quarantine, is slashing staffing.

“You know the only, real solution to that is to get more adults vaccinated. Of course, adults who are vaccinated don’t have to quarantine unless there is a breakthrough infection,” Mackey said.

While staffing shortages have forced many schools to shut down and temporarily return to virtual learning, Mackey stressed that new data from standardized testing earlier this year shows the importance of in-person learning.

“And you’re going to see that the scores are lower across the board. I mean they are exactly what we were saying last summer, during last school year, during the testing window this spring that when students don’t have a teacher in the classroom with them, it is much more difficult for them to learn,” Mackey said.

Mackey also said he’s expecting more COVID-19 guidance from Washington as President Biden lays out a new plan to fight the virus nationwide.