PELL CITY, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s only been a few days since students have returned back to the classroom from winter break, but school districts across Central Alabama have already begun seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant.

Pell City, Talladega, and Bessemer City Schools are among many school systems that have temporarily shifted to remote learning. Pell City Schools Superintendent James Martin said that over the past week, student COVID-19 cases districtwide have risen from less than 50 to over 170. This, along with a shortage of teachers, substitutes, and bus drivers, led the district to change in-class instruction options.

During remote learning days, teachers prepare lessons for students through curriculum packets and upload lessons online through the Schoology app.

Martin said many instructors– even those who have tested positive for the virus– are taking a role in the virtual learning process if they are able through Zoom.

“Many of our teachers who are positive and at home they want to be at work,” Martin said. “They want to serve our students and that shows the commitment and the professionalism we have, not only in our profession, but more especially in the Pell City School District.”

During the teachers’ absence, Pell City Schools has done its best to alternate staff into different roles. Martin said most parents have been understanding of holding remote learning, especially with the increase in COVID-19 cases. He also said if case numbers don’t begin to fall this, the district may look to extend remote learning.

“Again, do a continual assessment of where we are as far as positives and staffing and everything in our school district but if those numbers aren’t where we need them to be then we will have to make the difficult decisions,” he said.