McLean County Public Schools have outlined some of its working guidelines for students and staff returning to school this coming Fall. The board of education also plans to postpone the start date for students until later in August.

In the board of education’s special called meeting on Tuesday, superintendent Tommy Burrough said he would recommend to the board in its upcoming scheduled meeting today to postpone the start date for students for Aug. 26. The current start date is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Teachers and staff, however, would start Aug. 3 for payroll purposes. The extra days will be used for needed planning, Burrough said, as students have been out of the classroom since March.

Additionally, MCPS plans to offer two learning options for students returning to school this Fall — in-person learning or virtual learning.

Burrough said the district is working on purchasing a new online classroom platform for virtual learning called Virtual Academy. The program will cost the district around $30,000, he said, but will have unlimited seats to account for any students whose parents choose to keep them home for the upcoming school year. Schools are currently planning for about a third of students opting for virtual learning, according to Burrough.

With such a significant portion of students opting in for the virtual learning option, Burrough said it would allow for schools to better implement social distancing measures for students.

“[...] classrooms will be set up for social distancing because we have 30% of the kids staying home. That way, the goal is that students will be able to remove their masks while they are seated at their desks because they will be spread out far enough,” he said.

The district is hoping that the portion of students staying home will allow schools to have some teachers dedicated solely to virtual learning students, Burrough said.

“A third of our kids, the parents have said they’re going to keep their kids home … that loosens up some teachers at the school and the schools are going to dictate online virtual academy teachers where that’s all they work with is those kids,” he said.

For students participating in virtual learning, the district plans to keep them on as regular of a classroom schedule as possible along with in-person students. Students will have designated hours they are required to be logged in and active on the online program to be counted for attendance purposes. Schools will continue operating on a five-day schedule Monday through Friday for both in-person and online students.

Masks will be required for everyone in the building except for children under the age of 6 and those with medical exemptions. Currently the district is planning to allow students to remove their masks while seated at their desks with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

Students will eat meals either in the classroom or at designated indoor or outdoor areas. Common areas will not be used by large groups of students, including gymnasiums, cafeterias or auditoriums.

Students will have temperatures taken upon entering busses or schools. Students with a temperature of 100.5 or more will be isolated in a designated “sick room” within the school.

Surfaces in the schools and on busses will be disinfected regularly and gloves, masks and sanitizer will be readily available for students and staff throughout schools.

In the case there is a confirmed COVID-19 case within the schools, the health department would be in charge of contact tracing and determining who will be required to quarantine and when those individuals would be allowed to return to school or work.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@mcleannews.com, 270-691-7360

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