How are schools weathering the COVID storm?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – More local schools are switching to online learning as the Omicron variant continues to circulate in the community.

But others choose to stay open for in-person learning.

Nearly a dozen of Jefferson County’s 57 schools are closed to in-person learning because there are so many teachers, faculty and staff dealing with COVID.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin said the district is working hard to keep schools open because in-person learning is best for students.

But he had to make the difficult decision to close 10 schools and go to remote learning because he said it just wasn’t safe.

Dr Gonsoulin said there were several teachers and bus drivers with COVID.

Meanwhile, in Hoover, district leaders said they were struggling to keep school doors open, buses running, meals served and lessons taught.

A district spokesperson said administrators were helping cover classes due to teacher and staff absences.

District leaders have met with school administrators to discuss remote learning options to ensure schools are ready, should remote learning become necessary.

In Jefferson County, Dr. Gonsoulin said everyone was on deck, but he didn’t want to overwhelm the already strained system.

“We never want to have so few faculty members that we have to group several different classes together which makes it unsafe or put the kids in one big area so one or two people can cover it. A large area being the auditorium or the cafeteria, and so when we get to that point, or just before we get to that point, that’s when we know we have to make the decision to go remote,” Dr. Gonsoulin said.

He added that the decision to close schools is sometimes taken on the fly as the morning may start with full enrolment, but the situation could change in the afternoon.

He expects the 10 schools that are closed for in-person learning to be able to reopen by Monday.

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Norma A. Roth