(Writer’s Note: This is the second part of a series of stories reporting on the school reopening plan of the Vinton County Local School District.)

The Vinton County Back-to-School “Plan A” came from an ad-hoc committee approach where ideas from all school departments were considered and implemented.

The main component of Plan A is that when the 2020-21 school year begins on Wednesday, Aug. 19, students will be in class on a full-time schedule, five days a week, but with a host of health/safety protocols and procedures in place to lessen the risk of exposure to COVID-19. However, the district will also have an online education plan in place for students who choose not to attend in-person classes. Also, the district can pivot to a different format or plan if the circumstances change or if state officials order the closure of schools as they did last March.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Waggoner told The Telegram he is pleased with a plan that representatives from the administration, classified teaching, building leaders, and non-classified staff all put together. The plan was also guided by a response from a survey the district had prepared to receive input from parents. Students can also opt to enroll in the Virtual Viking online program where they are still counted as district students, but their progress and attendance will be monitored electronically. (See upcoming story.)

During the Vinton County Local Board of Education meeting on Monday, July 27, Waggoner told The Telegram the best type of plan comes from compromises and it is important for people to realize this year will be different from usual.

“I just do not think one or two people could have put this plan together,” Waggoner said. He noted that in an organization, yes there are administration levels, but it takes a team approach to make the system work and this plan is a fine example of blending different viewpoints into it.

“There will still be laughing in the halls and students will be seeing their friends, but the students may have to learn to communicate from a little further away,” he said.

Vinton County Local Teachers Association President Jeri Kendrick explained the district can take some of the new rules and make it a learning experience for the students.

“I think kids want to know why restrictions such as mask coverings are needed,” said Kendrick. “I think once they understand, they can see something as necessary, instead of an adult telling them what to do.”

She also hopes parents will be understanding of the changes the district is making due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She added, “The doors will be open, but it will not be like September 2019.”

Board President Tom McManis stated the parents responded that they wanted the schools open five days a week.

“When many of our residents drop their kids off at school or at a bus stop, they have another 45 minutes to drive to work,” said McManis. “We are offering the kids a safe environment, good meals, and online access to our kids.”

McManis sees the role of the schools as being an important part of the fabric of the community.  To guide them through the planning process, McManis noted school leaders consulted with the Vinton County Health Department (VCHD) on the parameters needed to establish.

VCHD Deputy Administrator Janelle McManis was on hand to answer questions about the reopening plan and the protocols needed to open as safely as possible. She stated the department has been and will continue to be working with the schools.