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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – When school starts for students in all public school systems in Madison County, it will be behind a computer screen.

The superintendents for Huntsville, Madison and Madison County schools were at a news conference Wednesday morning where they announced that all schools will start with remote learning to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This is a joint decision that was made after considerable discussion, planning, thought and care,” said The Schools Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Fleming.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley said the district was working on getting low-cost internet access for students who need it, and that the district intends to provide meals for children as well.

Finley said there is no perfect plan or solution for the situation, but they’re trying to remove as many of the challenges as they can.

“We know that the decisions impact our students, our families, our community and our staff,” she said. “But as a school system, we know that we must do our part to protect our Huntsville City Schools family, even when it’s challenging.”

Finley said parents who enrolled their students in the Huntsville Virtual Academy have until 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 24, to unenroll. School begins Aug. 17. The district’s plan can be seen here.

Madison County Schools Superintendent Allen Perkins said everyone would be watching the virus situation closely in an effort to get children back in the classroom as soon and as safely as possible.

“Our hope is that we will only need to utilize remote learning for the first nine weeks of school,” Perkins said.

Families would begin getting information about reopening on July 31, according to the district. School is scheduled to begin Aug. 19.

Parents in Madison would be getting emails Wednesday with more information about the district’s Aug. 12 start, said Madison City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols. The information has been posted on the district’s website.

Nichols added the community, school boards and support staff are working to make the best decisions for students. Nichols, who is the parent of a high school senior, said he understands the experiences of school – from dropping off a child on his or her first day to the senior year experiences – are going to be affected.

“We know those experiences are important,” Nichols said. “And I promise you, as soon as we can safely resume those experiences, we will. But we’ve got to protect our children and our staff.”

Madison County’s reopening plan is also available on the district’s website.

City and county leaders were also at the news conference. They encouraged employers to consider the tough situation this decision puts families in. They asked that businesses do their best to accommodate schedule changes and telework requests to make this as seamless of a process as possible.

Huntsville Madison County officials say they have a task force working to find childcare solutions. They say, according to Alabama Partnership for Children, there were more than 22,000 kids in the congressional district who needed childcare and didn’t have it before COVID-19.

“Safety measures have forced some centers to close and reduce the capacity of those that remained open adding school aged children will have an impact that we haven’t fully assessed yet,” said Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Industry Relations and Workforce.

Cape says the Chamber’s childcare task force is working with business leaders, community partners and the school districts to identify solutions.