Schools are ready Aug. 3

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Parents and students finally have an answer to their one, over-riding question, at least for now.

The Marshall County Board of Education adopted a plan for returning to school at their monthly meeting Monday night.

The option chosen, one of three presented, will send students back to school for a half day on August 3, the originally scheduled first day, in a fairly “normal” manner.

“I really think we need to be in school in person as much as possible,” said Director of Schools Jacob Sorrells, echoing a common opinion among the board members and staff.

“That’s what’s best for the students and for the teachers to deliver content.”

The plan spells out three phases that the school year could take, depending on several health metrics tracking the spread of COVID-19 monitored by the system.

Initially, school will look essentially the same, with some modifications.

Students and staff will have temperatures taken, maintain social distancing, use anti-bacterial gel when entering and leaving classrooms, and buildings will undergo more frequent cleaning, among other measures. Students or staff who test positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days and affected classrooms will be notified.

Active COVID-19 numbers in the county below one percent of the population, and other numbers like staff and student attendance, new cases, hospitalizations and others remaining under control will leave the system at this level of operation.

The system will offer an online school option for students who choose not to attend in person.

Parents must contact the school their child is set to attend prior to noon, July 24, to set up an appointment to enroll in the virtual option.

Students may switch between online and classroom instruction at the end of each nine week period.

Online students are not eligible to participate in extracurricular activities.

The board spent over an hour discussing the question of whether or not to require masks among staff and students.

“If we want to wear masks, we’ll be vilified for wearing masks,” said Sorrells, “and if we don’t wear masks, we’ll be vilified for not wearing masks.”

“If our objective is to stay in school for as long as we can and as much as we can,” said Cathey, “then masks might be the best option to achieve our real objective.”

Ultimately, the board decided, after much discussion, against requiring masks to be worn.

The second phase of the plan, based on COVID-19 data, would see the system move to an alternating attendance model where students would not go to school everyday, while the third phase would move to entirely online learning.

One constant expressed during the meeting is the quickly changing nature and guidance regarding the pandemic.

“At the end of the day, this could change tomorrow,” said board member Susan Hunter, of the plan after its adoption.

Sorrells allowed that a the board might need a special called meeting to tweak the plan, based of further information or after studying other system’s plans.

“Anything we approve tonight is a living breathing document,” said Sorrells.

“There’s nothing about this that’s going to be easy,” said Sorrells. “These kids aren’t going to get this year of school back, we can’t let what happened this spring happen again. That’s not OK.”

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