BARBOUR COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – Students in Barbour County Schools will be kicking off the school year with in-person learning starting on Aug. 9.

As they pack up their backpacks, they will also have to pack their face masks before they head back to classrooms.

Superintendent of Barbour County Schools, Zickeyous Byrd, spoke with News 3 why students and employees will be required to wear masks.

“Of course we are basing that off of CDC guidelines as well as local area reports. We know that our cases in Barbour County they are continuing to rise so with that in mind and of course CDC guidelines we are requiring all of our students and employees to wear masks when we get back to school.”

Byrd also says Barbour County is so rural that half the county doesn’t have access to high speed internet.

This created roadblocks for students last year– and Byrd says he is hoping in-person instruction will help bridge the gap academically for students who fell behind last year.

As students head back to classrooms, the school district says they have a plan in place to stay on top of contact tracing.

“We’re going to make sure that we still have seating charts in the classrooms, seating charts on the buses and so if there is a positive case, our staff members they will be of course making sure that we are contract tracing, contacting parents and informing them of the status, letting them know that there has been a positive case,” Byrd explains.

The school district is offering virtual options students for students with health conditions or for parents who are not comfortable with letting their kids return to classrooms just yet.