Schools to reopen Aug. 11 for teachers; Aug. 25 for students

Students in grades 3-12 will be required to wear face coverings on campus

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FLEMING ISLAND – The 2020-21 school year will begin on Aug. 11 for teachers and Aug. 25 for students.

After more than three hours of discussion about the school year’s budget, reopening plans and more, the Tuesday, July 28, special meeting concluded with an answer to a question parents were desperate to have heard: when are children going back to school? The answer came quick, but it wasn’t easy.

“The governor waived the 180-day requirement but there’s still the 900 hours requirement,” Chief of Staff Terri Dennis said.

A special calendar committee was created to arrive at the Aug. 11 and 25 return dates, and it had to work through different scenarios that included the reduction of some holiday breaks. Days can’t be removed from the back half of the winter holiday break because the first semester of school must have enough hours for high schoolers with semester-based classes to fill.

The committee said it wanted the full week off for Thanksgiving to remain. Good Friday can’t be removed, and federal holidays can’t, either. It’s unknown which days will need to be transformed from holidays to school days, if any at all. Dennis said high school is currently able to have 910 hours and that junior high and elementary are able to have 930 hours with the Aug. 25 start date.

The school board didn’t arrive at this announcement until going through hours of budgeting discussion and school reopening procedure. Students in grades 3 or higher will be required to wear a mask. Students in kindergarten, first and second grade will not be although it will be highly recommended. Masks will be required for 3-12th grade when socially distancing isn’t possible.

Chair Carol Studdard attempted to make masks mandatory for all grades, but the board didn’t agree. Board member Ashley Gilhousen attempted to make masks highly recommended for all grade levels, but not mandatory, and the board disagreed again. Board member Janice Kerekes attempted to get temperature screenings added to the daily routine, and it also wasn’t approved.

The board disagreed on a number of smaller items with each board member attempting to get their own variation in the school reopening plan passed. At the end, it agreed 5-0 vote on mandatory masks for grades 3-12.

The school board approved the tentative budget after approving last week’s proposed budget and things remain unchanged, as far as the budget goes. The millage rate in the tentative budget is 6.889 and the tentative budget total is roughly $460 million. Because it is a tentative budget, things could change, just as they could even after a final budget is approved.

“It is a budget,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Affairs Susan Legutko said. “It is a make-believe [budget] of what we will collect in revenue. We do not know exactly what we’ll collect though, especially in a year with all of these unknowns.”

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