MCS Returns to In-Person School


Georgia White, Writer

Madison City students who opted for in-person learning transitioned from hybrid learning to in-person instruction this week. All in-person students, regardless of last name, will now attend school each day of the week, unlike the AAVBB hybrid schedule. 

Madison City School officials have had the monumental task of leading our school district through a difficult time and making decisions for the well-being of thousands of students in our community. While everyone wants the best educational experience for students, working toward the goal of in-person schooling has been challenging.

From the beginning of the school year, Madison City Schools superintendent Dr. Edwin Nichols´ goal was for all students to be in the classroom and learning as safely as possible. MCS has gone to great lengths to implement safety measures in all schools in the district, such as desk shields, mandatory masks, and distancing as much as possible. In a recent email from Superintendent Nichols to MCS faculty, Dr. Nichols wrote, “The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) updated us that positive test rates have dropped below the state average in our area and our Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) code is Yellow (Moderate). As I reviewed this information, I felt that we could re-engage those students on a daily basis that made the choice for traditional learning.” Through the entire school year, the decisions regarding in-person schooling have been made in conjunction with recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

Now that there´s more data about high-risk environments for the Coronavirus, decisions can be made based on statistics from previous school attendance during the pandemic. Dr. Jonathan White, a palliative care doctor at Huntsville Hospital said, “With the present numbers in the hospital and the ICUś full, it would be ideal for schools to continue low-density classrooms.¨ White feels it would be wise to remain in a hybrid schedule until numbers significantly decrease, but added that ¨schools seem to be doing a good job of not being ‘super-spreader’ locations while being conscientious of minimizing the risk of transmissions inside of schools.¨ Citing the same finding of schools being relatively low-risk environments, Superintendent Nichols said, ¨Most of [the] positives and quarantines have not been due to exposure inside the school setting.”

In addition to the challenges of keeping students safe in schools, learning at home can be difficult for students. Understanding lessons and hard concepts online is a challenging task for many. “Learning without the teacher nearby makes it more difficult to learn new material. You’re basically teaching yourself,” 10th grader Emily Duong stated. Not only are hybrid schedules taxing on students, but teachers also have the responsibility of managing online and in-person students at the same time. 

However, concerns remain about having high numbers of students in close quarters inside of classrooms when Coronavirus numbers are high in the community. A Bob Jones teacher said, “Without a vaccine, I feel safer when classroom numbers are divided. It is impossible to social distance in most teachers’ classrooms when we’re at full capacity. Safety precautions have certainly been considered, but we can’t increase the square footage of the classrooms.¨ Some students feel it is better to stay hybrid. Bob Jones student Evin Stout said, ¨I think [we] should stay hybrid because students and teachers will get a higher chance of getting COVID-19 and can be quarantined if we are in full capacity.¨

This is a challenging situation for everyone. Students learn best with face-to-face instruction and in-person interaction with teachers. Rising cases of Coronavirus have made it hard for school officials to navigate this public health crisis, but with guidance from public health officials, Madison City Schools is moving back toward the traditional in-person school model for those students who have chosen F2F (Face-to-Face). School officials, teachers, and students all share the same goal of having a safe classroom experience for all students and faculty.