The Jackson County School System has expanded its return to class this week with a hybrid system of alternating in-person classes with remote learning for all of its schools.

The system had earlier announced it would go to the hybrid model for its middle and high school students, but expanded that last week to include all its elementary schools as well.

The system is also set to enforce a mask mandate for all students and staff wear masks inside school facilities.

"This is our best option to keep our students and staff in school while minimizing the potential impact of holiday travel," said superintendent April Howard.

The system's move comes amid a large outbreak of Covid cases in Jackson County and an expected uptick following Christmas and New Year's where a number of people may have been exposed to the virus at holiday gatherings.

The system plans to remain with the hybrid system though January, depending on the data from state health officials and the amount of community spread of the virus.

Howard said that system leaders will meet on Jan. 7 to make a decision about any modifications for next week's classes.

The system had to move to remote learning just before the holiday break due to a high number of school staff being required to quarantine.

Under the current plan, all students will do remote learning on Mondays. Students are then divided into two groups for in-person class attendance on an alternating schedule.

The hybrid system lowers the density of students inside school buildings to allow for more distancing.

Howard said the first day of the hybrid class system went well.

"Things are going very well for the most part," she said.

Two schools are seeing some staff shortages and in need of additional substitute teachers, Howard said.

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