FAYETTEVILLE — During a special meeting on Aug. 14, the Fayette County Board of Education voted to open the 2020-21 school term in a blended learning model.

The county had earlier indicated plans to begin with a staggered start in the opening stages, then transfer over to all students being in their classrooms by Sept. 15.

Under Superintendent Gary Hough's recommended re-entry program, which was approved by the board Friday, the week of Sept. 8-11 will feature two days of face-to-face instruction and two days of blended online at home. Cohort A, with last names beginning with A to L, will have face-to-face learning at school on Tuesday and Wednesday and remote learning at home on Thursday and Friday. Cohort B (names beginning from M through Z), will reverse that process, going online the first two days and being at school the last two days.

Fayette Institute of Technology students will follow the alphabetical listing schedule for attendance.

Monday, Sept. 7 is the Labor Day holiday.

The second week, which is Sept. 14-18, will feature two days of on-site instruction and three days of remote learning. Students with last name beginning from A to L will be at schools on Sept. 14 and 15 and involved in online activities at home on Sept. 17, 18 and 19. Students from M to Z will have online at home on the first three days and face-to-face instruction on the final two days.

In both scenarios, Wednesday, Sept. 16 will be utilized for a school cleaning day, to allow teachers to work on lesson plans, and allow FIT students to be at school. Online instruction will continue as necessary.

Individual schools will work with blended families to assure that all the students in that family attend school the same days.

According to Hough, if evaluation as the second week draws to a close reveals that Fayette County is in a color zone (designated Friday by state officials) with metrics which allow in-school instruction, the entire system will transfer to five-days-a-week status in buildings beginning on Sept. 21.

The board discussed several issues before voting on the plan. And, members listened to a presentation from Anna Kincaid-Cline, the school system's associate superintendent of curriculum/technology/instruction, concerning the virtual school program. A total of 1,850 applications for individual students to participate in virtual learning was received over the summer. Students must remain in virtual learning for at least the first semester.

Kincaid-Cline said central office personnel have gone over the virtual learning process with principals and school staff. It will also be discussed more during an upcoming board meeting. A network has also been developed to assist parents of students in the virtual program.

More information can be obtained on the FCS website at https://www.boe.faye.k12.wv.us/.

If some Covid-19 cases emerge in schools once classes begin, Hough says the board can call a meeting on 24-hour notice to discuss making changes in the plan.

Mask wearing is critical, officials have said as the reopening process has been explored. Masks are expected to be worn in areas inside in which social distancing can't occur. After an Aug. 4 meeting, board president Pat Gray said mask wearing inside would be "strongly encouraged," and Fayette County Health Officer Dr. Anita Stewart said at the same meeting the local health department supported five-day-a-week school in buildings provided that masks are worn.

"We're still not clear whether we're going to get 100 percent cooperation on the masks," Hough said early in the meeting.

"We are putting our kids at risk, their grandparents at risk, and teachers and school service personnel at risk when we don't mandate (wearing masks in the classroom)," board member Marion Tanner, a retired teacher, said Friday.

The board will hosts its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 25.

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School systems statewide have been working over the summer to prepare for a potential reopening of buildings and classrooms for the looming school term.

One of the recent projects in Fayette County has included installation of body temperature scanning equipment in various county schools.

The $165,000 project, with funding available from the CARES Act, is being supervised by contractor Electronic Specialty, of Dunbar.

According to Tim Payton, director of operations for Fayette County Schools, two types of devices are available in the project:

• A kiosk, which is a standalone device that measures a person's temperature in about one second; and

• A camera that works in conjunction with a temperature monitoring device that has the capability to measure the body temperature of 30 people per second.

"The kiosk device requires that the person stand still in front of the device, and the camera can measure body temperature while people are moving," Payton explained. "Some schools are getting one or the other or both depending on their population.

"Schools that have a safe schools entrance for visitors will also have a kiosk device in that area to monitor the body temperature of any visitors that may be allowed in the building. We understand that fever is only one symptom of Covid-19, and that not everyone will have a fever even if they are infected, but it is part of the overall process for ensuring that our schools are as safe as possible. Additionally, these devices have security features beyond just scanning body temperatures. We will explore these options as we progress through the school year."

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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