JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – With the rise in COVID-19 cases across the state many school systems across the Tennessee Valley are making the transition back to virtual learning.

School districts said high numbers of COVID cases among staff have added on to the already present staffing shortages.

Jill Sommers is a liaison between educators and administration in schools across Jackson and DeKalb Counties. She says since Christmas break, teachers have felt the brunt of staffing shortages.

“They’ve done a great job. Keep it up this far, but I was starting to get a lot more calls on ‘hey, when are we going to go virtual? Are they considering going virtual? Have you heard anything?’,” says Sommers.

Sommers says a lack of substitutes also impacts the ability to operate schools.

“Teachers are doing the best they can you know, to cut cover classes until it just gets to a point where it’s not safe. I have had not one complaint about going virtual I think the teachers are very, very glad,” says Sommers.

She says the decision to move to remote learning, even for a day is not taken lightly.

“I think this time around, they are having a more difficult time because they understand now what it does to the community as well when they shut down the schools. I think the first time around not only the general public, but the superintendents themselves weren’t aware of what a crisis it would create for families,” says Sommers.

Sommers says school district leaders hope the transition to remote learning will allow time for staff to recover from illness and curb the spread of infection.

“I think they’re a little more confident and knowing what the numbers are, what their schools and their students can actually handle. And I think they’re doing a really good job of just keep trying to keep everybody safe. And knowing at what point to cut it off and send everybody home,” says Sommers.