Cullman County Schools to return to 5 days a week, not requiring face masks

CULLMAN, Ala. (WBRC) -Students in Cullman County Schools in grades K-8th will return to a 5-day per week schedule beginning April 19. Students and employees will not be required to wear face masks after the state mask mandate is lifted, according to Superintendent Shane Barnette.

Right now, out of the over 11,000 students and employees in Cullman County Schools, there’s only 3 COVID-19 cases according to Barnette. Barnette says a lot of families told him they don’t want their kids wearing face masks. Those are some of the reasons why Barnette is not requiring them when school returns to five days a week.

“We’ll leave that up to families that if they want their children to wear masks at school or adults who come on campus want to feel more comfortable wearing masks. They can do that, but they’ll be optional,” Barnette said.

Barnette believes more students will return after the mask mandate is lifted. He’s hoping this is the beginning of returning things back to normal in schools.

“I feel like it’s a great time to come back to school. Let us work with your kids, take care of your kids and finish this school year on a strong academic note but at the same time get some of those activities in that we haven’t been able to do,” Barnette said.

Barnette says high schoolers will have the option of coming to school on Wednesdays. They’ll focus on pre-assigned work to let teachers continue to do e-learning for virtual students.

The school system sent us this information about returning to school:

:•Current virtual students are encouraged to return to in-person instruction to finish out the school year. Paperwork needs to be completed by April 9, 2021 to begin April 12, 2021 on campus.

•Afternoon tutors, which the CARES act will now fund, will take over the monitoring of virtual students each Wednesday in grades K-8. Teachers will still be able to view virtual student progress, but will not be required to work with virtual students on Wednesdays when traditional students return.

•Traditional students in grades 9-12 will have the option of coming to school on Wednesdays beginning April 12, 2021. Those students will follow the normal bell schedule but will be focusing primarily on pre-assigned work. This is so high school teachers can continue to monitor virtual students. Cullman County Schools has a higher number of virtual students in grades 9-12, which is why this plan is different than K-8. Although students will be doing pre-assigned work, this change will allow them to have dependable connectivity and meals served.

Employees will also be receiving a COVID-19 relief stipend:

The Cullman County Commission on Education, at its March 11, 2021 board meeting approved two items directly related to support for our employees for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

1)The board approved Superintendent Shane Barnette’s request to contract with American Behavioral. The company will provide an employee assistance program for all full-time employees of Cullman County Schools. This assistance will be provided at no cost to the employee. It will be paid for with CARES act funding.

2)The board approved Superintendent Barnette’s request for a one-time $500.00 supplement for all full-time employees, with the exception of the superintendent. The supplement is in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-2021 school year, and regarding additional services that will be provided by CCBOE and SPUR employees for the remainder of the year, above and beyond their normal job requirements related to teaching and serving students.

“I am proud to be able to provide these benefits to our employees. In other industries, employees would be compensated for extra duties and overtime but our certified employees do not receive that,” said Dr Barnette.

“All of our employees have – and continue to go above and beyond to make it possible to educate our young people,” said Dr. Barnette.

The stipends will be paid for by the general fund, by savings created due to the CARES Act!