Huntsville City Schools welcome thousands of students back to school

Huntsville City Schools welcome thousands of students back to school
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Many parents are packing up their kids backpacks to kick off the new school year for Huntsville City School students.

Parents are facing more and more concerns each year.

In 2022, many parents are worried about their children’s safety when it comes to both COVID and gun violence.

COVID is still a concern in North Alabama. Cases continue to increase even though hospitalizations are not as severe as they were with the Delta variant that kicked off the 2021-22 school year.

Huntsville City School Superintendent Christie Finley said there are not virtual learning opportunities this year and masking is optional. She said that could change depending on the circumstance.

When it comes to safety from gun violence, protocols vary from school-to-school.

System-wide, if an elementary school student brings a gun to school they can get suspended, but not expelled. Starting this year, a restorative panel is being implemented if this happens. Superintendent Finley said they want to bring students, parents and school leaders into the discipline process to figure out the best way to move forward.

Some schools have security employed by the Huntsville City School system while others have school resource officers through the Huntsville Police Department.

On top of that, some schools, like Lee High School, have alert systems. Lee High School Principal Tony Woods said there is a button in every classroom attached to the teachers’ mic.

“Huntsville, we’ve always, I don’t want to say a step ahead of everyone else, but especially when it comes to technology we have a raptor system in place,” Woods said. “We have microphones in classrooms, teachers can hit an alert button if there’s an emergency.”

Woods said they also have trainings for teachers at the beginning of every school year to prepare for a possible shooting.

But finding teachers and filling other positions has been a challenge this year. State leaders are trying to fix this problem. In early 2022, state legislators passed an education budget that includes pay raises for teachers.

The pay raises depend on each teachers’ experience level. The raises range from a 5% to 21% increase.

Teachers are receiving the largest raises in a long time as the district aims for a higher retention rate.

The state raised pay after teachers were leaving in droves during the pandemic.

According to Huntsville City Human Resources reports, over 300 teachers left that system between January and November 2021. Over 250 teachers resigned and 66 retired.

Alabama state leaders hope this pay increase will make it more appealing to stay.

Olivia Cooper is new to Lee High School but not to teaching. She says she’s been a teacher for 12 years. She says she can’t imagine leaving because she passionate about helping her students.

“I love them and everything else follows,” Cooper said “I respect them, I teach them and I care about them. Even now speaking with them about everything that’s happened over the past few years and they’re not shy about saying that they need help.”

Superintendent Finley says they are still hiring teachers and other support staff for the school year.

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