Athens City School students head back to class

2020 school year begins in Athens

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More than 3,600 students in the Athens City Schools system will head back to the classroom on Monday. About 1/3 of those students will be starting virtually, while the rest head back for in-person learning.

Schools will obviously look different as students head back. Amanda Tedford, the principal at Athens Elementary School, said her and her teachers have been prepping parents on what this new experience will be like.

“We’ve spent the last couple of weeks communicating with parents just about what to expect, what school is going to look like, encouraging them to start talking to their students about what to expect,” she said.

For kids that are going back to class, masks will be required when social distancing is not possible.

Administrators are also asking parents to be the first line of defense between their child’s school and an outbreak by checking temperatures and screening for symptoms before their student leaves for school.

Social distancing is going to be a big part in fighting the spread of COVID-19 in schools, but this can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with younger children.

At Athens Elementary School, desks have been moved apart in classrooms to allow for more spacing and teachers will spend the first few days going over protocols.

“The first couple of days of school will be learning those procedures, talking about how we interact, here’s the importance of washing hands, hand sanitizer, here’s how to wear a mask properly, here’s when we do it. Those kinds of things,” said Tedford.

She said her and her teachers are happy to have students back.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen or interacted with our kids so we’re excited about just making those connections again and getting them excited about school,” Tedford said.

When asked about quarantines that are already happening in other school districts, Tedford said they’re going to focus on their safety measures but also be fluid in this ever-changing school year.

“It’s just the world we’re living with, we’ve got to be able to roll with the punches because we honestly don’t know what tomorrow will hold and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

For students who decided on the virtual option, Tedford said they have dedicated teachers solely focusing on their online learning.

Students working virtually will also soon be getting new iPads from the district, until those tablets arrive, students who need one will use an old tablet or laptop from the district.

On a personal note, Tedford knows the difficult back-to-school decisions many families have had to make, because she did it herself.

“I’m a parent of two school aged kids so I know it’s been a very difficult decision for a lot of school aged families,” she said. “I think our district is great because we have given parents the option to choose what’s best for their family.”

At last check, Athens City School had three employees who had tested positive for COVID-19, with five total employees in quarantine due to possible exposure, according to Athens City Schools Acting Superintendent Beth Patton.

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