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2 Pell City elementary schools will remain virtual next week

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PELL CITY -- Pell City Superintendent Dr. James Martin announced that Iola Roberts Elementary School and Walter M. Kennedy Elementary School will remain all-virtual next week. 

Martin said Thursday the two schools will continue virtual learning until Jan. 25, while the rest of the system will return to in-person classes Jan. 19.

He said the decision came due to the higher impact of COVID-19 at the schools.  

Martin said Iola and Kennedy amount to 70 percent of active quarantines among students and 60 percent of employees who have tested positive for the virus.

Martin said usually he and his team would not make school closing decisions until Sunday, but the current numbers influenced him to make the call sooner. 

“We really need to do this now,” Martin said. 

Martin said of the 450 students in quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19, 315 attend Iola or Kennedy.

Martin said those exposures are partly due to holiday gatherings and some in-school contact, describing it as a domino effect. 

Martin said he hopes there will not be further all-virtual school weeks for the time being.

Martin said several quarantines should resolve over the week, so he does not expect the school closings to last longer. 

Martin said the rest of the system will return to school after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He said the plan is for most elementary schools to return to traditional learning. 

Martin said grades 7-12 will continue attending classes on a split schedule for two more weeks. He said A-day students, those with last names beginning with A-L, will attend Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and B-day students, those with last names beginning with M-Z, will attend Thursday and Friday. 

The following week, beginning Jan. 25, A-day students will attend Monday and Tuesday, while B-day students will attend Wednesday and Thursday. Martin said Friday, Jan. 29, will be used for virtual students who need individual help from their teachers. 

He said he hopes the next week the system will be able to transition to a traditional non-split schedule. 

Martin said, despite the closings and change of plans, the system’s goal remains to have every child in school in traditional learning, which the system believes offers the best learning environment. 

“We also want to do it in a safe and responsible manner,” he said.

Taylor Mitchell, Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.