Wilson County Schools will open Aug. 3 for “traditional” instruction, but parents who are uncomfortable having their children return to in-person class have the option of online instruction.

The plan was revealed during last week’s Wilson County Schools Board of Education meeting and was made with input from a survey of parents that found an “overwhelming desire” to return to in-person school, Director Donna Wright said. However, the survey also found a significant portion of parents were uncomfortable having their children in school given the current coronavirus pandemic.

For those parents, the school district will offer a “virtual teaching and learning option.” The deadline to choose that option is July 17 and the household must have access broadband internet and designate a “learning coach,” Deputy Director Monty Wilson said.

The virtual option will be for the first half of the school year. As December approaches, the coronavirus situation and the effectiveness of virtual learning will be evaluated to determine the course for the second half of the year. Course offerings will be limited under the virtual option, and Advanced Placement classes will not be offered. Students who choose the virtual option will be allowed to take part in extracurricular activities.

While called “traditional,” the in-person option will have numerous differences from what has been normal in the past to limit the risk of COVID-19. Everybody will have their temperatures taken upon arriving at school and be asked questions about recent exposure to the virus. Students will have to wear masks while on buses and teachers will wear masks when in close proximity to students, but not necessarily while lecturing. Classrooms will be cleaned frequently during the day.

“We’ve got to do our best to keep the virus out,” said Chuck Whitlock, health services supervisor. “We don’t want to be a hot spot.”

Other changes include no assemblies and no field trips. High schools athletic teams will be allowed to travel to away games, but there will be no overnight trips. Some student organizations, such as FFA and FBLA, will be allowed to take part in trips to competitions.

At least as of now, spectators will be allowed at football games.

“Without paying spectators, high school sports does not exist,” Whitlock said, adding that spectators would expected to social distance and wear masks.

“The world has changed today and with that we have to change behavior. Behaviors will have to change,” Wright said. “Those who come to watch have to follow the protocols we put in place.”

Administrators emphasized that there is a great deal of uncertainty going into the new school year. Each school in the district will have its own reopening plan ready for parents by July 20. Much more detailed information is available on the district’s website, www.wcschools.com. Two specific addresses are https://www.wcschools.com/readysetreconnect and https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Gpo75H7iIHBaudLpSuiycj2z73Km_-HU/view?usp=sharing

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