Rhea County school officials announced late last week that schools will open for the first full day of school on Friday, Aug. 7, with changes to operation to ensure a safe environment in light of COVID-19.

“The Rhea County Leadership Team consisting of central office leaders, school principals, school board members, and health department members, have reviewed a variety of resources, studied guidelines, and worked diligently to create plans for returning to school,” officials said in a release. “Rhea County Department of Education will focus on making decisions that are practical and feasible with a student-centered approach.”

“Schools will open in a traditional manner with a RC virtual option for families. For planning purposes, the choice for the virtual option must be made no later than July 31. Parental support and commitment are requirements for a student to be considered for the virtual path. Students that are planning on taking advantage of the RC virtual school and would like to try out for sports must notify the Director of Schools in writing prior to July 31. A student that chooses the virtual path must remain on the same path for one semester unless approved by the principal.”

The county school system also outlined safety protocols schools will undertake in order to protect students and staff from the spread of COVID-19.

The following protocols will be implemented, but not limited to:

• Hand sanitizer stations will be in all classrooms and common spaces.

• Intensive cleaning throughout the building during and after school hours. Victory electrostatic foggers will be used to disinfect.

• Masks will be the option of the parent and student. Masks will not be mandatory for students or teachers.

• Signage will be posted in all buildings encouraging frequent handwashing and social distancing.

• Students and staff should remain at home if they are sick.

• Parents are requested to complete temperature checks prior to sending children to school. Temperature checks will be conducted at all schools.

• All staff will log their temperature daily. If a temperature exceeds 100.4, the employee will be sent home and required to stay home until they maintain a regular temperature for 24 hours immediately prior to returning to work.

County school officials are also prepared in the event that a case of COVID-19 does appear at the schools.

“If a positive test for COVID-19 occurs in a school building with a student or a staff member, district and school administrators will work with the regional health department who will take the lead on notifications and contact tracing,” officials said. “Potential school closures will be based upon the risk levels determined by the Rhea County Department of Education and the Rhea County Health Department. If school is closed due to COVID-19, virtual classes will begin. The trigger to begin discussion with the Rhea County Health Department will be when the positive COVID-19 cases exceeds 1 per 100 students. Rhea County Schools will have the ability to close individual schools or the entire system.”

For more information about county schools re-opening, visit www.rheacounty.org, and click the link for the “Return to School Plan.”

Dayton City School is tentatively set to reopen school on Aug. 7 as well, with similar cleaning and hygienic measures to that of the county school system.

City school officials said at a special-called Monday meeting that the final decision on how exactly to re-open the school will be made on Aug. 3 and will take into consideration the number of active COVID-19 cases in the county.

City school officials said that if the percentage of active cases in relation to the population of the county is below 0.25 percent, school will move forward as normal with all students in school, but with an increased emphasis on hand washing, social distancing and other preventative measures.

Should the percentage of active cases range from 0.25 to 1 percent of the county population, the school will modify class schedules and also allow for home and virtual learning for students and families who have been impacted by COVID-19. If the percentage of cases increases over 1 percent, city officials said that students will not attend school physically, and all will learn from home.

To view the Dayton City School re-opening plan, visit www.daytoncity.net.