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HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Huntsville City Schools is preparing to have all students return to in-classroom learning after their Fall break.

County leaders and health officials are working to address challenges facing schools and plan to monitor cases among students in Madison County.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health says since schools started reopening for in-person learning, the state has seen a 1.5 percent increase in the number of children between the ages of five and 17 testing positive for COVID-19. She added, ADPH does not attribute any spikes in cases across the state to the reopening of schools.

More than 142,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Alabama. 7.9 percent of those cases are people from 5 to 17 years old according to ADPH.

“That’s 7.9 percent of almost 150,000. So, that’s not really that small a number,” Landers pointed out.

Landers says limiting crowds and limiting congregating indoors are both ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“We have to be extremely cautious as more people come into what we call  congregate settings. A school is a congregate setting,” she said.

All students enrolled in in-person learning will return to Huntsville City Schools after the Fall break. Meaning students will no longer be broken into cohorts to limit the number of students at school at the same time on the same day.

“I think sending the students back to school is something that’s got to be done. Yes, there’s dangers in that, but if you look at the numbers right now hospitals are able to handle larger case loads. We pray that that doesn’t happen. It could happen,” said Dale Strong, Madison County Commission Chairman.

Strong says case numbers at schools will be closely monitored.

“I promise you that from education, to our healthcare providers, our hospitals, our doctors, everyone is going to be watching this. It will be an hour-by-hour situation. If we do see a spread there will be modifications that will have to be made,” Strong said.

Landers says across the state, schools have been doing well following health guidelines that keep students safe. She says most cases among students happen outside the school walls in sport or social settings. She says the biggest challenge facing schools is educating parents about what to do if their child is sick and how to adhere to quarantine procedures.

Landers says if a student is sick, their parent or guardian should call the child’s doctor to see if they need to be tested for COVID-19.

She says if a student is exposed to someone who is positive, they must quarantine for two weeks, even if they never exhibit symptoms or test positive for the virus, since the incubation period for COVID-19 can last two to 14 days.