Development of plans for student instruction in the fall are nearing completion for the Greene County Schools.

Greene County School Director David McLain gave an update Monday about preparations underway for online instruction and students returning to classrooms to the Greene County Commission’s Education Committee.

The school system will offer a virtual school program online in the fall in addition to the traditional classroom instruction, McLain explained. A pre-registration period for the fall has started and, thus far, a majority of parents who have registered their children for the online instructional option have indicated that their decision is based on concern about the coronavirus, he said.

“I tell our teachers that parents are putting their most treasured possession in our hands,” McLain told the committee. “We want to be sure that parents feel comfortable that their children are safe.”

A plan with measures to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and staff returning to school buildings is in the final stages of development, he said.

The Greene County Board of Education will meet on July 13 and consider the plan.

In planning for the virtual school program, Greene County educators have talked to representatives from the Carter County School System, which adopted a virtual school program last fall.

The software that is used in that virtual school option is already used by the Greene County system for its CHOICES program, McLain explained. That program is designed to help students who are in danger of dropping out of school to finish their remaining courses and earn their diploma.

Part of the reason to conduct the early registration is to get a rough idea of the number of students who may choose the virtual school, he said.

Students in the virtual school will be part of the total enrollment of the school system, McLain said. The state provides its Basic Education Program funding for local school systems based on the number of students enrolled in the system. For the last few years, the school system has faced declining enrollment, losing more than 1,000 students in the last decade, resulting in less state funding and more that has to be covered on the local level.

The state is preparing standards for online instruction that will be more stringent than it instituted in the spring when schools closed for the coronavirus, McLain said.

There is a concern about online instruction only for students in kindergarten through second grade when the basic reading and writing skills are being developed, he said, and system officials hope a way can be developed for those grade levels to have classroom instruction safely for all students.

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