After spending the first two weeks working remotely, students in the Cullman County School System will be returning to the classroom on Tuesday.
When schools reopen for in-person learning, they will still be in a hybrid schedule for now, but the plan is to continue to work towards getting students back in the classroom every day of the week, said Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette.
"We're hoping to start transitioning back more and more towards normalcy every day," he said.
Under the hybrid schedule, the student populations in the county's middle schools and high schools will still be split in half — with one half attending school on Monday and Tuesday, the other half attending on Thursday and Friday and all students working remotely on Wednesdays.
Elementary schools will still have all of their students attending school for four days a week, but they will also be working remotely on Wednesdays.
Under the procedures set by the state, if a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19 and is sent home to quarantine for two weeks, any person who was within six feet of them for more than 15 minutes is also required to quarantine at home.
With the middle school and high school students switching classes several times a day, one positive student case could have caused 25-30 other students to also have to quarantine when schools were still in their traditional scheduling, Barnette said.
With fewer students in the classroom due to hybrid scheduling, the number of students required to quarantine after a positive case is usually only around one or two, he said.
"In a lot of cases when someone comes up positive, they don't have to quarantine hardly anybody, if anybody," he said.
The new semester began on Jan. 6, but students have been learning remotely for the past two weeks in an attempt to avoid a large spike in cases as they come back from the holidays, Barnette said.
"We wanted to give them time, if they were exposed, to get that out of their system before they came back, and we feel like we've done that," he said.
It's still too early for most people to have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, but as those numbers continue to go up, the case numbers should continue to go down, and the schools should eventually be able to return to their traditional scheduling when that happens, Barnette said.
"Hopefully we'll be able to get everybody back for at least four days a week, then a few weeks after that, get back to five days a week," he said.