MADISON, Ala. – We’re less than a month away from the start of the upcoming school year — one many are hoping to be much more normal than the last. But that doesn’t mean all COVID-19 precautions are going to be lifted.
Superintendent Ed Nichols says seating plans and isolation areas in the nurse’s office are just a couple of things that will stay, but there will also be some changes too.
He says based on low infection rates, masks will be optional, but he says that could change.
“We’re flexible, we don’t know — infection rate may go way up and we have to make a change, but especially with young children, there are a lot of developmental speech things that are very challenging when you have a mask on,” Superintendent Nichols said.
Another challenge for some, and a benefit for others, was virtual learning. The state requires a virtual option for high school students. Last year they required it for all ages, but since that has been dropped for Kindergarten through 8th grade, Nichols says when it comes to that younger group:
“We will not be offering a virtual option. We will assist parents to find virtual options. There are some statewide virtual options that are tuition-free,” he said.
A strict sanitizing policy adopted last year, he said, will not change at all, especially with an increase in enrollment.
“We have had a lot of increase in enrollment which was off a little bit for us but seems to be back in our normal pattern of 300 to 500 new students who are enrolling,” he said.
Lastly, he says, are the district updates on positivity rates. They follow guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health, and Nichols says the ADPH is taking on more responsibility when it comes to keeping track of those numbers this year.
“We will not next year put out case numbers like we did last year every Friday because the contact tracing part of that is now on the Alabama Department of Public Health and not our nursing staff,” he said.
He also says vaccinations are not required to return to school on August 4th.