Parents who prefer to have their children participate in school remotely during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic have until 5 p.m. Friday to make arrangements with the Cherokee County School District.

The school board last week approved a plan to reopen all schools for in-classroom instruction beginning Aug. 3. Students will be provided with two washable, reusable face masks and encouraged to wear them whenever they cannot be at least 6-feet apart from other people to fight the spread of the virus. Officials said they are also supplying hand sanitizer and increasing cleaning of school facilities.

School system officials in Cherokee County and across the state closed schools in mid-March, switching to online instruction in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The virus has killed more than 135,000 people in the U.S., more than 3,000 in Georgia and nearly 50 in Cherokee County. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a shelter-in-place order for most state residents and closure of many retail and other businesses deemed “non-essential.” Lockdown measures began to ease gradually by the end of April, but school buildings were ordered closed through the end of the academic year in May.

An online form must be completed by parents for their students they want to have enrolled in Distance Learning, the system’s term for online instruction. According to guidance for parents from school district officials, not all elective courses will be available for students learning from home. The form asks parents to acknowledge their understanding that the work will be more rigorous than students experienced in the sudden, uncertain transition from classrooms to online instruction made last spring. “Expectations for completing work and grading expectations will be the same for Digital Learning students as for Traditional In-Person students,” the online form states.

Cherokee County parents who want their children to learn online at home must stick with that decision through the first semester if their children are middle or high school students. Parents of elementary school students can request to have their children switch to in-school instruction after they have completed the first nine-weeks of school online.

Nearly 30 people signed up to speak at last week’s special board meeting with residents speaking for and against various parts of the reopening plan. Public outcry has continued with an online petition to make wearing of face masks mandatory. And, some teachers have said they plan to protest outside of Thursday’s 7 p.m. regular school board meeting, where the reopening plan is not on the agenda. School system officials said in a post on the website that petitions will not affect reopening decisions, saying survey feedback from more than 25,000 parents helped shape the plan.

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