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Hartselle schools resume in-person learning after virtual week

Students and teachers are back to in-person learning after being virtual this past week in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to school administration.

Staff shortages and high absenteeism amid a surge in positive cases caused the brief pause in in-person instruction according to a message on the district’s website.

As of Jan. 21, Hartselle City Schools had 140 positive cases of COVID-19, down from 208 the week prior.

Hartselle City Schools employs 490 administrators, teachers and staff and serves 3,629 students.

Hartselle Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones said the district was dealing with staff shortages and couldn’t continue operating with the limited staff available.

The original plan was the return to the classroom Jan. 19, but administration made the call to remain virtual for the remainder of the week.

“The factor is the high rate of community transmission of COVID-19 and other typical illnesses for the time of year,” Jones explained prior to the break. “As we approach a long weekend, the transition to remote learning on Friday will provide our students and staff with five days of separation to slow the spread of the virus and allow those who are currently sick time to recover.”

Morgan County Schools did not resort to virtual learning, reporting 5 percent of employees and 6 percent of students were in quarantine or isolation.

Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, on Thursday said the best way to keep schools open is to require masking.

“None of us want schools to go virtual. It doesn’t work as well,” he said. “So we’ve got to do the work to make it not happen – or if it does happen because the Omicron rocket ship has overwhelmed our community, then we need to mask and social distance … so the duration of the virtual learning is as short as possible and we can get back into schools.”

Wes Tomlinson contributed to this report.