The Bell County Board of Education approved a new school calendar on Tuesday with the first day for students now set for Aug. 25.

It’s the same first day for students that has been set for the Pineville and Middlesboro Independent school districts. See the attached files for more on the attendance options those districts are considering.

Bell County students will have the option of attending school in person five days per week or taking their classes virtually.

Chromebooks have been purchased for each student in the Bell County School System. The laptops will be used during school and are also available for students to use if they choose to take their classes online.

The board also approved the creation of virtual school teacher positions. The goal is to add one virtual teacher for about every 50 students who chose to take classes on line. This would allow the classroom teachers to just focus on the students who attend school in person. Some of the virtual positions may be filled by current classroom teachers depending on the number of students who choose to attend in person versus the number who choose to attend on line.

“We’ll be sending out a registration form this week so we’ll know how many students will be attending in person and how many will be attending virtually,” Superintendent Tom Gambrel said. “It’s all dependent on how many come to school and how many attend virtually.

“There may be some teachers that are specialized that will have to tend to some virtual classes. But hopefully we’ll have people in place that will take care that for them. We haven’t seen the numbers yet. We have an idea of what it’s going to look like but we won’t have the finite details until we get closer to knowing how many kids we’re going to have in each direction.”

For those students who attend class in person, all schools in the district will be following the state guidelines. This includes all students from first grade up wearing masks when riding a school bus. Students in a classroom are required to be six feet apart or have their mask on. Also anytime someone is up moving about in the classroom, everyone has to put their mask on.

“Other than that it’s just maintaining social distancing and using hand sanitizer,” Gambrel said. “We will be checking temperatures as they come in the building. We’re required to do that. We’re going to ask parents to not send their children to school if they have a fever but once they get to school we’re going to verify that. If they have a fever we’re going to isolate them and have parents come and get them.”

All students who attend virtual classes will be given a Chromebook to use.

“The board has purchased Edgenuity, it’s an Odysseywear product that has a curriculum K-12. We’re going to utilize that in our virtual school,” Gambrel said. “We’re also going to have Chromebooks in school for students and we’ll familiarize them at the minimum with Edgenuity in the event we have to cancel classes because of a spike in the number of cases or if we have a mandate to close schools.”

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