HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Madison City School students who chose in-school learning this semester will be heading back to the classroom full time starting Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Since returning to school following winter break, students have been on a remote or staggered schedule to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and school leaders believe that plan worked.
According to Superintendent Ed Nichols, new data shows the positive rate inside schools is less than one percent.
“Our numbers have been very low on a positivity rate within the schools so we felt like it was the right time to bring our kids back,” Nichols said.
About 80 percent of students districtwide chose school-based learning this year, following a semester of remote and hybrid classes.
According to Nichols, schools saw a significant increase in student failure rates last semester, which he believes is evidence that many students do better with in-person instruction.
Nichols said schools have new protocols to mitigate spread of the virus. Kids will be better spread out, more plexiglass shields will be in classrooms and a stockpile of cleaning supplies has been ordered. Also, Nichols said he talks daily with county medical folks and with the EMA to monitor COVID-19 rates.
“Our goal as a school is to have school every day,” Nichols said. “We have altered that this year due to the pandemic but we just felt like the data could help us to do that and we hope we can maintain that. But we are flexible. I have said since the beginning of school, the word is flexible.”
Although the district’s announcement about the full-time schedule has given many Madison City parents a sense of relief, not everyone is on board. Last week, a parent created an online petition to get Madison City Schools to go hybrid for the rest of the semester. It now has over 1,000 signatures.
The organizer of the petition feels a hybrid schedule would create a consistent and sustainable schedule for students.
On the other hand, Madison City Schools parent Brandi Handley is eager for her kids to get back in the classroom full time. She has a 6th and 7th grader and noticed their grades diminish last semester due to a lack of teacher-student interaction.
“At the end of last year when they were home all the time, their grades didn’t seem to be the best,” Handley said. “It was hard to juggle and figure out everything.”
Handley acknowledges that all kids learn differently but ultimately feels full-time in-person learning is the best option to keep her kids on track, if the district says it’s safe.
“I know that my boys are excited to get back into school full on because I know that they learn better when they are in the classroom setting,” Handley said. “Because I’m not a teacher. Working full-time it’s hard for me to juggle that... But if they end up being home in the next two to three weeks, the next month, so be it. We’ll figure it out and deal with it as we have to.”
Again, the new full-time schedule starts Tuesday and applies to students enrolled in school-based learning, about 80 percent of students districtwide.
All virtual students will continue classes online.
For more information about schedules, you can visit the district’s website: https://www.madisoncity.k12.al.us/.