The Rome school board adopted the city’s plan for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year based on a three-tiered plan.

The determination as to how many people will be in the schools will depend on how pervasive the spread of COVID-19 is at that time. For instance, green represents low to no community spread working the way up to red, representing substantial community spread.

Some of the students who have health issues aren’t ready to come back, Superintendent Lou Byars told the board during their Friday meeting. A poll, which had 2,800 respondents, showed that 24% said they were interested in a virtual learning option.

In response the school system is developing what they’re calling a virtual learning academy. The overarching theme to the system’s COVID-19 response plan is to keep vulnerable populations out of harm’s way.

At this point they’re planning on having the rest of the students start back to school in August. With that said, school is going to look pretty different.

There will be preventative measures — including cameras which monitor the temperature of people coming into school buildings as well as masks and more cleaning.

During low to minimal community spread, determined by the Department of Public Health, students would report to school for the most part.

Many of the details of the plan are still in the works, such as lunchtime. They discussed whether to have students eat lunches in teacher’s rooms or having reduced seating in the cafeteria. Gone are the days of self-serve buffets, at least for now. Items would be wrapped or in containers or pre-packaged as they can.

Once the level begins to move toward moderate to substantial community spread, students would move to learning remotely. Teachers would deliver live online instructions followed by recorded sessions for students who could not attend.

The redistribution of chromebooks as well support for student internet access will take place before the first day of school if the Department of Health recommends Rome is in the moderate to substantial community spread phase.

Regardless, they’ll be developing the virtual learning academy and there won’t be penalties for attendance or rewards for perfect attendance.

“We want people who are sick to stay home,” Byars said.

Athletics and extracurricular activities, like band and chorus, also are going to be a challenge.

“We’ve been advised to do as much of that as possible,” Byars said.

The system is in the process of setting up a dedicated web page to inform parents about the school system’s plan and to give daily updates.

Byars also discussed some items concerning the preliminary budget — the school system has to wait for the state to pass the budget prior to finalizing their budgets.

He also told school board members that Rome High Schools in-person graduation ceremonies, while not finalized, will take place on July 18 at Barron Stadium. The slightly abbreviated ceremonies will likely take place from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will observe social distancing practices.

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