Cullman City Schools strongly encouraging masks, vaccinations

Safety measures, quarantine protocols set for 2021-2022 school year

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CULLMAN, Ala. – With COVID-19 cases increasing in the State of Alabama and Cullman County, Cullman City Schools is strongly encouraging students to wear masks and for eligible students to be vaccinated as the 2021-2022 school year begins on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

“We hoped we would be past COVID and related restrictions by the time the new school year started so that we would have a normal school year,” Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said, “But unfortunately, Alabama’s low vaccination rates coupled with increasing circulation of the Delta variant have forced schools across Alabama to institute COVID-19 protocols for the third consecutive school year.”

Masks and facial coverings are strongly recommended while indoors, however they will not be required. This is subject to change based on rates of positive COVID-19 cases on each campus, Cullman County and the State of Alabama. Masks will be required while on school buses.

If a student comes in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period), the school will notify the parents or guardian. Schools are also required to report suspected and diagnosed COVID-19 cases to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). The ADPH is recommending students who have been identified as a “close contact” to quarantine at home. If a child has been identified as a close contact, a letter from ADPH with additional details will be provided to a parent or guardian.

The school system has also set quarantine regulations for the new school year, which will vary based on whether a student was masked or vaccinated at the time of exposure. Students who are a close contact will not need to quarantine if they have no symptoms and are vaccinated, have no symptoms and tested positive in the prior three months or have no symptoms and were correctly wearing a mask.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are not required in order for students to attend school; however, it is strongly recommended that students ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated. School administration and nurses have the right to inquire if a student has been vaccinated. Students who voluntarily provide proof of vaccination status do not have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic after a potential exposure.

If any families or students have questions about COVID-19 vaccinations or would like more information, Cullman City Schools’ Lead Nurse Jennifer Shugarts can be contacted at 256-734-3923 (ext. 2001).

For students who miss assignments due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantines, pandemic-related absences will be excused with proper documentation (i.e., doctor’s note or notification for the ADPH). Student assignments will be available on the Schoology platform or by using other instructional software. More specific information will be provided to affected students when applicable.

All protocols are subject to change based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommendations, statewide Alabama health orders and the safety of Cullman City School System students and employees.

Online curriculum

The vast majority of Cullman City School students will be taught in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting this year. Unlike the 2020-2021 school year, all available teacher units will be used to support traditional face-to-face classroom instruction. A fully (100 percent virtual) online curriculum will only be available for students in grades 6-12 who meet specific prerequisite requirements. Students who choose this option will need to be able to work independently with limited support from certified teachers. This will not be a hybrid option and will exclude participation in extracurricular activities.

Eligible students for online curriculum must: be on track for graduation with their cohort (9-12), have demonstrated academic success in face-to-face classes, should not have excessive absences and should have demonstrated characteristics that would make him/her a good candidate for virtual learning (i.e. self-motivated, organized, self-disciplined). Also, potential online students in grades 11 or 12 must have met his/her College Career Readiness Indicator.

In addition to the prerequisites, the following criteria will be included in this virtual option: students will have limited access to elective courses, all state testing will be conducted on campus at the applicable school and students who commit to the Cullman Innovation Academy will not be able to transition out until the end of the semester (December 2021). Schools will need to be notified by November 30. To apply to the Cullman Innovation Academy, you may contact Aimee Bates at 256-734-2233 (ext. 9076) or visit https://www.cullmancats.net. The enrollment window for this virtual option will close on Tuesday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m.

Safety precautions

Parents and guardians are being asked to closely monitor their child’s health before coming to school. If a child has a fever, parents are being asked to please not send him/her to school. If a child has shortness of breath, sudden loss of taste or sudden loss of smell, please contact a health care provider before sending the child to school. Once at school, if a student has a fever, shortness of breath, sudden loss of taste or sudden loss of smell, they will be isolated from their peers while being monitored until their parent or guardian can pick them up. 

Once the school year begins, each school will have limited-to-no indoor activities involving visitors until COVID-19 cases decline in Cullman County and the state of Alabama. If anyone does visit a campus, they are strongly encouraged to wear a mask while indoors and maintain three feet of distance from others.

The school system is taking every effort to maintain three feet distance between students; however, this will be difficult due to the current overcrowding on each campus. The system will also continue to keep campuses clean and supply hand sanitization on all campuses. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands multiple times throughout the day.

Cullman City Schools is also in the process of adding air purifiers on all campuses and updating identified HVAC systems. These are two of many measures being implemented to improve air quality and mitigate the spread of all viruses across all campuses.