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Madison City Schools reports more than 100 COVID tests. What's next for the district?

89 positive tests is the highest number they've had since they started tracking COVID.

MADISON, Ala. — Madison City Schools on Sunday reported that more than 100 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Schools in the district currently require masks and are separating students as best they can. So, what's next for one of the largest school systems in North Alabama? 

One thing that won't change? Rules regarding sporting events. The district says that based on ASHAA guidelines, "We will not limit seating capacity or require masks for outdoor events. However, masks will be required for all indoor events."

Also, students who are excluded from school because of close contact with a positive case will have to continue their school work via Schoology or through paper copies the school provides, and they'll have to turn them in within three days of returning. Parents are asked to monitor their students and not send them to school if they have COVID symptoms, which may include

Starting the week of August 15, students will eat lunch in their respective classrooms rather than the cafeteria.

Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols made the update Sunday on the district's website:

During the short period of time that our schools have been open, MCS has already had over 100 students test positive for COVID-19.  Those students and their families are complying with MCS procedures for being excluded from school until they are cleared for a safe return.  I want to thank those families for helping keep MCS safe, and I wish all of our students a safe and speedy recovery.  Also, by and large, our faculty, staff, and students have done a great job following our masking and social distancing mitigation procedures.  This becomes even more important as the number of cases in our school system continues to rise.  I want to thank you all for your help thus far. By following these procedures, we have a better chance of maintaining a regular school schedule.

With current positive test numbers in our district, the district will be coordinating this week with our principals to reevaluate school schedules to assist with social distancing during the school day. Currently, students are utilizing the cafeteria. However, starting next week, we will return to meals being held in classrooms. Also, other activities will be evaluated and adjusted to lessen the spread of the virus and assist our staff in contact tracing. Our goal is to keep the cases down and be able to continue with our regular school schedule. Many districts in the country are already moving to hybrid and virtual options. I believe that by following the ADPH guidelines, we can continue to avoid this type of schedule disruption. 

As I said at our most recent Board meeting, I am regularly reevaluating the circumstances facing MCS, and my team and I are making changes to our procedures to keep as many students in school as safely as possible.  My hope is that in a few weeks, we will see a decline in these positive tests and be able to develop a mask optional status for our schools.  While most students are following our MCS COVID-19 mitigation procedures, I am writing today to make sure that all MCS families understand our schools’ mechanisms for enforcing the COVID-19 mitigation procedures.  I have included them below, and they will also be posted on the MCS website as required by MCS Policy 4.13.4.  Those mechanisms are as follows:

Enforcement - Student Discipline

Misplaced or Forgotten Mask.  MCS will not discipline students for failing to bring a mask to school, for forgetting to bring a mask to school, or for misplacing their masks.  Schools will have spare masks for students.

Disruption. If a student disrupts class or school as a part of failing to wear a mask, the student will be subject to the typical consequences in the MCS Code of Student Conduct for disruption.

Refusal to Put a Mask Back On.  If a student refuses to put his or her mask back on or to comply with a classroom rule, including COVID-19 mitigation procedures, that student will be subject to typical consequences in the MCS Code of Student Conduct for defiance.

Failure to Comply with COVID-19 Mitigation Procedures.  Students who will not wear masks or comply with other aspects of the COVID-19 mitigation procedures will be subject to measures set out in MCS Policy 4.13.3a and b., described in detail below.

Policy 4.13.3a states All individuals, including all students, faculty, staff, family members, and other visitors to Board schools or properties must comply with the procedures developed pursuant to this policy. Failure to do so will result in consequences including, but not limited to, temporary or permanent removal from the property.

Policy 4.13.3b states: As a condition to participating in any on-campus instruction or attendance at any school-sponsored event, students must adhere to the procedures developed pursuant to this procedure. Failure to do so may result in removal from in-person instruction.  If parents/guardians believe that their student will not be able to comply with the procedures, they should contact their student’s school principal to discuss options.

Practically speaking, the above procedures, approved by our Board of Education, allow our schools to regulate students who are disruptive or defiant in the same way that they have in the past.  However, students who have not received an exemption from MCS but do not comply with masking will not be allowed to remain on campus for instruction.  These students will be removed from the regular class and kept separate from other students until their parents/guardians are able to pick them up. If students repeatedly refuse to comply with these procedures, they will be transitioned into asynchronous remote learning with their assignments placed on Schoology until the student complies with the procedures. While I regret excluding any student from school, I must also enforce the policies and procedures adopted by the Board of Education. 

If you believe that your student should be exempt from these procedures due to medical, health, or ability concerns, please provide documentation of the grounds supporting your exemption to your school principal.  The school will work with the MCS administration to evaluate each such request.  MCS will consult materials available to it from the ADPH and the AAP to evaluate each request.  

Again, I want to emphasize that in-person learning is our main focus this year, but, in order to ensure safety, we must adhere to our MCS policies. Since the start of this school year, our staff has tried to accommodate and work with parents concerning the mask requirement. However, beginning tomorrow, the only students allowed in a regular class setting will be those that are masked or have been given an exemption via an IEP or 504 plan. If you wish to explore other educational options due to the mask mandate, please contact curriculum@madisoncity.k12.al.us and our team will provide you with other educational options.

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