BREAKING NEWS: School Board approves reopening plan offering ‘hybrid’ or ‘all-virtual’ option

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By Bill Short

The Millington School Board has unanimously approved a plan to reopen the system’s four schools on Aug. 10 offering a “hybrid” or an “all-virtual” option.

Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Mark Coulter and seconded by Chris Denson.

During his monthly report to the board, Superintendent James “Bo” Griffin said student registration would continue the next day.

While noting that 1,690 students had already registered, he said 58 percent of them had chosen the “hybrid” and 41 percent the “all-virtual” option.

“Hats off to everyone for getting ready for school this year,” Griffin added. “I know the teachers have been in the last week and a half and have really been working hard to accomplish that. I’m very proud of all the work that everybody’s done.”

The superintendent said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has issued an executive order in which he “strongly recommended” that all sports “move forward.”

So, Griffin said that, on the recommendation of the Shelby County Health Department, “until further notice,” the school system would proceed with that the next day.

He also noted that the governor has called a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly for Aug. 10, because he is “very adamant” about helping educators obtain “liability protection” in the classroom.

“That’s very important,” he said. “We’re glad to see that. So, hopefully, in the special session, they will address that issue and take care of that.”

Griffin initially presented the 2020 Vision plan online during a July 7 “virtual” Town Hall meeting that was live-streamed on the school system’s Facebook page.

He has said the plan’s “guiding principle” is the students’ physical, academic, social-emotional and mental health, as well as the health and well-being of the staff.

The plan is designed to promote behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining a healthy environment and operations, while preparing the district to make any necessary academic or social adjustments.

It will adhere to the current approved 2020-21 academic calendar, while using all available health care precautions.

The plan consists of “operating scenarios” guided by the Centers for Disease Control, the state and local health departments and recommendations by the Tennessee Department of Education.

Griffin has said the “hybrid” system will limit the potential exposure time of students and staff, while allowing for increased sanitizing and cleaning.

Students in Pre-K through the second grade, and those who receive Special Education services for resource and/or co-teach, will attend school Monday through Thursday.

Functional Skills or Special Ed Pre-K students will attend Monday through Friday.

Students in grades 3-12 will attend two days a week. Those will be Monday and Wednesday for surnames beginning with A through J, while Tuesday and Thursday will be for K through Z.

Friday will be a day of virtual school for all but Functional Skills and Special Ed Pre-K students.

Griffin has said the “all-virtual” option is available to parents who have “strong reservations” about sending their children to school in person.

He has noted that the school district has a contract with Durham School Services, and it is regulated by requirements of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Although busing will be available, it will be limited by social distancing requirements.

Griffin has encouraged parents to provide transportation for their children, if possible.

Classrooms will be set up so that students are seated 6 feet apart. Wearing a mask is expected while staff and students are in groups or transitioning.

Students and staff will be instructed in proper hand-washing techniques, as well as measures to prevent disease transmission.

Griffin has noted that the schools will have “structured time” for student hand washing, and hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout all the buildings. The school district has also purchased “several pieces” of personal protective equipment.

While noting that nurses are available in all the schools, Griffin has said the district has a “strategy” for identifying children who display symptoms of illness. He has emphasized that children who have a fever or do not feel well need to stay at home.

The superintendent has said the district is in “constant contact” with the state and local health departments, and it will re-evaluate these plans every nine weeks.

He hopes that the “hybrid” system will only be necessary for the fall semester. And that, after the Christmas break, the district can get an “all-clear” from the health departments to resume a “full-time, face-to-face normal school day.”