Major Alabama school system goes online due to COVID-19

Alabama’s largest public school district, Mobile County, said it will transition to virtual classes on Monday because so many staff have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19, it’s difficult to keep open buildings.

The district, with more than 53,000 students and 7,200 employees in the southwest corner of the state, joins more than 30 other statewide systems that have moved to online learning since the resumption classes due to a resurgence of the disease as the highly contagious omicron variant spread rapidly.

At least 17 systems announced their move to online instruction on Wednesday or Thursday, according to a state-maintained list.

About a quarter of public school students in the state, or more than 200,000 children, have moved to online classes since the start of 2022, but only a handful of the largest systems require face masks, which according to the health experts, may help slow the spread of the coronavirus, al.com reported. The state health department recommends everyone wear a mask at school.

More than 16,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported this week in Alabama schools, including more than 600 in schools in Mobile County, among the highest in the state, according to data compiled by the state education and health agencies. Some districts have reported even more cases, with Montgomery and Baldwin counties being the highest in the state with more than 800 cases each.

In Mobile County, the rush of new cases combined with school staff missing work because they are sick or quarantined at home means there are sometimes too few adults to operate.

“Our caseload has increased, making it difficult to staff many of our schools. Based on today’s numbers, I believe it is best for the health and safety of all students and employees throughout the district to move to virtual learning for the week of 18-21. January 2022,” said a letter sent to parents Thursday by the superintendent. Chrisal Threadgill.

More than 16,640 people have died of COVID-19 in Alabama, giving the state the third-highest death rate in the nation during the pandemic, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Less than half of the state’s population is fully immunized, among the lowest in the country, making it easier for the disease to spread.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average of new daily cases has increased in the state by 4,907, or about 135%. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, one in 82 people in Alabama tested positive last week.

More than 2,000 people are hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, the most since the delta variant caused a surge of illnesses and deaths in the fall.

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