PELL CITY -- With all students finally starting in-person classes last week, Pell City Superintendent Dr. James Martin said the school year is off to a good start, despite some challenges due to the pandemic.
“It's going pretty good,” Martin said. “I can't complain.”
Despite first-graders and kindergarteners at Eden Elementary School starting two weeks later than other students due to COVID-19 exposures, Martin said the new academic year at Eden has started rather smoothly.
He said students from those grades joined the rest of the student body, ready to get back to school.
Martin said the new year has not been without some issues. He said some classes have had to move online due to exposures, with the whole first-grade at Coosa Valley Elementary needing to transition to distance learning.
Martin said all of these situations have been handled swiftly, and the system has had few positive cases of COVID-19. Instead, the system has simply a few exposures that have been responded to quickly.
Martin said that the A-day and B-day schedule implemented in grades 7-12 has gone rather smoothly.
This schedule, which was implemented the week before school started, has students separated by the first initial of their last names, with A-L in group A attending primarily Mondays and Tuesdays and students with names starting M-Z in group B attending primarily Thursdays and Fridays, with the groups alternating attending on Wednesdays.
Martin said despite some initial worries students would end up coming to school on the wrong day, only three did so on the first day of school.
He said he is pleased with the excellent job teachers, students and parents have done so far to make sure everything runs smoothly. He said he is specifically proud of the communication between parents, teachers and administrators that has been the backbone of the whole process.
One issue Martin also highlighted was a dip in enrollment so far this year.
He said there has been a drop in enrollment in elementary schools of about 200 students since last year. Those numbers paint a stark contrast from last year, when the system reported 172 newly enrolled students by November.
Martin said enrollment remains level at the junior high and high schools. Plus, he said some students are re-enrolling in the elementary schools.
“That number is shrinking,” Martin said of the drop in enrollment from a year ago.
Martin said some parents may have simply chosen to homeschool children instead of sending them back this year.
Martin said compliance with the statewide mask order has not been a problem in classrooms.
When asked about how mask restrictions are being handled at football games, he said Pell City High has yet to have a proper home game. Martin said he plans to have a meeting about the subject before Pell City’s home opener against Oxford on Sept. 18.
Martin said he had seen pictures of other schools where masks were not enforced, and despite his own admission that it is inconvenient to have to wear a mask, he also highlighted their importance.
“I just want everyone to be responsible and safe,” Martin said. “The key to keeping schools open is keeping people healthy.”