JeffCo’s top doctor releases new COVID guidance for schools, districts weigh options

New survey about in-person learning

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Jefferson County’s top doctor released new guidance for schools to consider for learning options and districts across the county are weighing options.

“We’re basically opening the door for more schools to consider going back to 5 days a week for all grades - again, very cautiously,” said Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Department.

Dr. Wilson released the new recommendations in a memo to school leaders posted Monday. He says part of the reason for the new recommendation is because health leaders haven’t found definitive evidence that COVID is being spread in classrooms. Based on contact tracing that’s been done on cases, infection appears to be happening more often during things like extracurricular activities and social events.

“They got the disease somewhere else and they happened to be going to school,” said Dr. Wilson.

He says that means safety precautions like face masks in schools seem to work.

The health department is also considered thing like community spread data, current hospital capacity, and the mental, social, and emotional needs of students. Dr. Wilson says the department also compared data of some of the districts that started the year with students in the classroom.

Dr. Wilson’s announcement comes as both Hoover City Schools and Homewood City Schools announced plans Tuesday to shift to 5 days of in person learning for all students.

Birmingham City School leaders announced plans to get feedback from parents about a switch from virtual to traditional. In a message posted to parents on the website, Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan said, “We’ve been in remote learning for about 4 weeks now. It’s time to start thinking about what’s next for Birmingham City Schools.”

The district doesn’t immediately plan to switch to in-person learning, but wants parents and staff to complete a survey about how comfortable they feel with coming back. The district says over the next few weeks it will begin developing a plan for returning to traditional learning.

The survey is posted on the districts website and is due Monday, October 12.

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