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Hundreds of Limestone County families have already applied to return to traditional learning for the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, according to school officials.

Applications for both options — virtual and traditional — are being accepted until Nov. 30, and an influx of families who opted for virtual learning in the fall are now saying they want traditional learning for the spring. Brad Lewis, director of curriculum and instruction for Limestone County Schools, said most of the families are those with elementary students.

"Elementary has been the big one, where a lot of families have struggled and want their children back in the elementary classroom," Lewis said. "With high school, we're going to have more students coming back to traditional, but we have a brand new group of students who want to try virtual."

As of Monday, applications to move from virtual to traditional learning had been filed for 261 elementary students and 243 high school students. By comparison, 217 new virtual school applications had been filed for high school students, and only 23 applications were filed for elementary students.

While many families may have decided virtual isn't the right choice for their situation, Lewis said it remains an option that will be around for the foreseeable future. He said LCS plans to continue offering both options, because there are still families who prefer a traditional setting and some who need a virtual option.

"Virtual is here to stay, and it's a good option for all of our parents if that's what they need," he said, though he noted traditional will likely remain the more popular option, especially as the pandemic dies down.

Among the common struggles with remote learning is maintaining regular access to high-speed internet. It's a requirement for the virtual school, but there are still rural areas that aren't serviced by high-speed internet providers and families that could only afford internet in the fall through assistance programs that haven't been extended through spring.

Another problem facing families is making sure their student is logged in for virtual learning for the required amount of time. Systemwide, the requirement is two hours per school day.

Overall, however, Lewis said things are running much smoother now than they were at the start of the fall semester. The virtual side of the school system is fully staffed, devices are available for students who need them and the plan is to start the spring semester for virtual and traditional students on the same day, Jan. 6, 2021.

Parents and guardians who wish to apply for virtual or have their student return to traditional can visit and click on the appropriate link in the pop-up window. One application per student must be filled out, and applications are available in Spanish as well as English.

Elementary students who received a device for virtual learning but are returning to traditional can return their devices Dec. 14 or 15 at the former Owens Elementary School on Alabama 99. High school students can return their device Dec. 16 or 17 at the same location. Device pickup for new virtual students is set for Jan. 5–8.

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