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Gov. Ivey urges school districts to make in-person classes the norm as many move toward virtual instruction

MONTGOMERYSeveral schools districts throughout North Alabama are having to scale back on in-person instruction due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Some, like the Madison County School District have chosen to go all-virtual for select schools where postive coronavirus cases have made it difficult to maintain an adquate staff or where there might be an significant outbreak among students.

The school district announced last week that Monrovia Elementary, Monrovia Middle, and Endeavor Elementary Schools in Madison County are temporarily making the full switch to virtual learning through Dec. 4.

The Madison City Schools joined the county school district in deciding to place all their schools on a hybrid in-person/virtual schedule until winter break starts on Dec. 18. Students will be divided into groups and rotate which days they attend in-person classes and virtual instruction from home.

“As all of you are aware, the current numbers of COVID-19 have risen these past few weeks,” MCS superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols said in a message to parents. “With the rise in cases and the corresponding shortage of substitutes, we will follow a hybrid schedule for all students.”

Dr. Nichols has been stressing the school district is getting very close to going all-virtual. School officials hope the hybrid scheduling will allow some form of in-person instruction to continue.

Both school districts used a hybrid schedule earlier this fall when they transitioned from all-virtual education to allow students to attend classes on campuses for the first time since the pandemic struck the state in March.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, there have been 2,682 positive cases of COVID in Madison County within the past 14 days out of 10,767 people tested.

Huntsville Hospital Health Systems reported 317 of their patients throughout all their facilities have COVID. Madison Hospital has been reporting a daily average of 30 COVID patients. On Tuesday, the hospital reported that three of those were on ventilators and five were in ICU.

So far, there have been a total 14,215 people in Madison County test positive for COVID this year with 153 deaths from the virus.

Schools leaders have not made any decisions yet about what will happen after the winter break. Students are scheduled to return from the break on Jan. 5.

Governor Kay Ivey urged school districts not to let virtual teaching become the norm in 2021.

“Due to COVID-19, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, especially for our parents, teachers and students. I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility everyone has shown as they have adapted to virtual instruction. However, virtual and remote instruction are stop-gap measures to prevent our students from regressing academically during the pandemic. These practices cannot — and should not — become a permanent part of instructional delivery system in 2021. As we are learning more about COVID-19, we are seeing more and more clear evidence pointing out that our students are safe in the classroom with strong health protocols in place.”

Ivey said the negative impacts of virtual instruction could be for years to come.  “This will not only result in a critical learning loss for our students today but will also likely lead to an equally negative impact on the readiness of our workforce in years to come. Additionally, it could have an equally important economic loss that affects the critical funding for our classrooms and teacher units.”

Ivey said she is strongly urging education leadership on both the state and local levels to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

“My Administration will work with Dr. Mackey, all of our local superintendents and the Legislature to ensure that our kids are back in the classroom in 2021,” she added. “Our employers, our families, our communities, Alabama’s taxpayers, and most importantly, our students, deserve nothing less.”

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