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This story has been updated with a clarification from Superintendent Barnette on parent notification regarding COVID-19.

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette has clarified a point in the system’s FAQ document about notifying families if a student in their child’s class tests positive for COVID-19.

He said schools will let families know about the potential exposure to the virus, but they will not use any personal information that could identify the child who tested positive.

“If little Johnny tests positive, and he is in a small group with another child or in a classroom with another child, we’ll let them know that somebody in their vicinity tested positive,” he said. “We just can’t tell them their name or anything like that.”

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The Cullman County School System has released its plans for the upcoming school year, and applications for students who want to take the system's virtual option are open for the next week.

Documents about the system's preparation for the upcoming school year are available on the system's website, ccboe.org, along with a look at some of the preventative measures that will be taken in the coming year — including new procedures for buses, cafeterias and classrooms.

While wearing a mask will not be required for students, they can wear appropriate face masks/coverings, and other appropriate PPE as desired, as long as they free of inappropriate or offensive messages/images. Teachers and staff are also welcome to wear masks at their general discretion for their safety during the school day, but any required use of masks will be governed by the Alabama Health Order as directed by Gov. Kay Ivey.

Following along with the state's Roadmap for Reopening, the county school system will be offering traditional in-class learning and a virtual learning option for students who are uncomfortable returning to the classroom.

The virtual option, called the Cullman County Virtual Academy, has an application that is available on the system's website, ccboe.org, along with guides for parents to answer any questions they may have. Applications will be accepted July 13-21.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenging nature of the program, a trial period will be offered to first-time CCVA students. Any newly enrolled CCVA student will have until Sept. 3 to decide if CCVA is right for them or if they should return to traditional instruction. After that date students enrolled in CCVA, will be required to complete the program for a minimum of one semester.

In the event that schools are closed due to COVID-19, traditional students will transition to a remote learning model or a hybrid that includes some in-class learning and some remote learning.

During hybrid learning, the system will utilize a schedule modification of A/B rotations. Students with the last name beginning with the letters A-K will be Group A. Students with a last name beginning with the letters L-Z will be Group B. Households with multiple last names will follow the last name of the oldest child. Group A will attend school on Monday and Tuesday. Group B will attend school on Thursday and Friday. Teachers and staff will attend school Monday-Friday.

Buses will still be running as usual, but parents are encouraged to transport their children to and from school as much as possible. Buses will be cleaned and sanitized before each trip and frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, arm rest, grab handles, etc. will be cleaned as necessary.

Face coverings are not required for students to wear on the bus, but they are recommended to be worn while riding the bus and all instances of transitions. Bus drivers may provide hand sanitizer for students or students may bring hand sanitizer from home, and students from the same household will sit together in assigned seats when it is possible to do so.

Breakfast and lunch will still take place in the cafeteria with new procedures with guidelines in place to ensure safety and promote social distancing to the extent possible. Meals will be pre-portioned and grab-and-go, and visitors to the cafeteria will not be allowed for the year to minimize risks to students and workers.

In the classroom, teachers will allow for as much space as possible between desks and they will all face forward. Teachers will utilize table dividers in situations where students are face-to-face at tables.

Teachers will also teach and reinforce good hygiene measures such as hand washing, covering coughs, and face coverings. Teachers and staff will receive training on proper cleaning procedures. Signs will be posted in classrooms, hallways, and entrances to communicate about COVID-19 symptoms, preventative measures (including staying home when sick), good hygiene, and school/district specific protocols.

Restrooms will be sanitized multiple times daily. Soap and/or sanitizer will be available in the bathroom and throughout the school buildings. Students and staff will be allowed to bring hand sanitizer from home. Drinking fountains will be disabled and students will be allowed to bring water bottles from home.

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.

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