MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Madison County Schools returned to virtual learning after a high number of staff members tested positive for COVID-19. MCS went virtual on Friday and is scheduled to return in person on January 31st.

On Monday, the district welcomed News 19 into Sparkman Middle School to get an inside look at how they’re tackling virtual learning. Principal Kristen Bell said Sparkman is a “1-to-1 school” when it comes to technology, so every student has a Chromebook.

Principal Bell said prior to the transition to virtual learning, teachers “discretely asked” students if they had Wifi or a good internet connection at home. Madison County Schools was able to hand out portable Wifi devices for students who needed them.

We stopped by a 7th-grade math classroom during a lesson on stem and leaf plots. Teacher Brooklyn McCarley said she prefers to have her students in person but is doing everything she can to ensure their success during this period of remote learning.

McCarley said this so far, she’s noticing more of her students are joining and participating with their cameras turned on this time around. She said it helps that this far into the school year, students have developed a relationship with their teachers, making them more likely to engage in the session.

McCarley said she isn’t taking off points for students who aren’t attending the virtual sessions but is encouraging them to attend for their own success.

McCarley said “We notice the kids who aren’t coming to the meets. We notice the kids who aren’t turning anything in. We text the parents, we reach out. Our heart hurts for that. We don’t want to see that.”

Principal Bell and McCarley both urge the community to give grace to teachers and educators with everything going on right now.

Principal Bell said, “I hope people understand that when our kids aren’t in the building, it doesn’t make our jobs any easier. It doesn’t make our hearts hurt any less.”