Decatur City Schools students in grades six through 12 will move to virtual instruction beginning today, while elementary students will move to virtual on Friday, as COVID-19 quarantines continue to increase.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Dwight Satterfield sent a SchoolCast message to families Wednesday afternoon announcing the transition to virtual instruction that affects only this week. Decatur schools will be closed for the Thanksgiving holidays next week.

"There are several rumors in the community that Decatur City Schools plans to transition to virtual learning after the Thanksgiving holiday. At this time, Decatur City Schools has no plans to switch to virtual learning after Thanksgiving,” he said. “We will continue to do our best to manage this pandemic by making virtual transitions based upon school site data.”

He said “our quarantine rates among students and staff have escalated since mid-afternoon."

As of Monday, the district had 620 quarantines, including 540 students and 80 employees. At the time, 35 students and employees had recently tested positive for COVID-19, including 20 students and 15 employees, a number school officials said fluctuates hourly. Superintendent Michael Douglas said an update with quarantine and case data will be sent to families Friday.

Douglas said the reason middle, junior and high school students are moving to virtual a day earlier than elementary students is because of where the quarantines and cases are concentrated.

"The data dictates secondary go (virtual) now. Elementary would be fine, but we will use Friday to clean the schools before the break," Douglas said.

In-person classes will continue in Hartselle City Schools, Morgan County Schools and Lawrence County Schools.

"Right now we have regular classes, but we are constantly evaluating our COVID numbers daily and making sure we have enough substitutes. We are day-to-day at this point," Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said.

Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Dee Dee Jones said the district is "continuing as planned right now."

Other than at Falkville High, where students will learn virtually today and Friday due to a high number of quarantined staff, Morgan County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Screws said the system's schools will continue to offer in-person instruction.

In Limestone County Schools, East Limestone middle and high school students moved to virtual learning beginning Monday due to a spike in quarantines.

Limestone Superintendent Randy Shearouse said last week East Limestone students would return to in-person school on Nov. 30, after Thanksgiving break. As of Friday, East Limestone middle and high schools had 21 active cases of COVID-19, including 19 students and two teachers. Additionally, he said, 398 students and 16 teachers were quarantined due to exposure.

Shearouse could not immediately be reached for comment on whether any additional closures had been made within the district as of Wednesday. No such closures had been announced as of late Wednesday.

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cassie.kuhn@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2469. Twitter @ DD_CassieKuhn.

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