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As Amherst County passes 3K cases of COVID-19, schools prepare for return to normalcy
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As Amherst County passes 3K cases of COVID-19, schools prepare for return to normalcy

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Back to School

Monelison Middle School sixth grade life science teacher Kristy Tyree wore a science-themed face mask to greet the sixth grade class at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

As Amherst County crossed the 3,000-mark this past week for positive COVID-19 cases, the schools division is planning for as much of a return to normal as possible when in-person instruction begins Aug. 18.

The county, as of July 19, had 3,009 cases of the coronavirus with 40 deaths. More than 25,000 vaccination doses have been administered in Amherst County, according to the Virginia Department of Health, leading to a slowdown in the speed of new cases in recent weeks.

At the Amherst County School Board’s July 15 meeting, school officials said face masks should be worn by individuals who have not received the vaccine. Staff and students in secondary schools who have been vaccinated no longer will be required to wear the masks and the division is awaiting for further guidance on July 24.

The school board is expected to discuss face masks protocols further at its July 29 meeting.

Temperature readings no longer will be taken at the door for students in the upcoming school year.

“From a staffing standpoint, it would be difficult to scan all those students and get them where they need to be,” said William Wells, assistant superintendent.

Teachers will visually check students upon arrival and send any who appear unwell to the office, Wells said. Visitors to the schools will still be required to take temperature readings, he said.

In classrooms, desks will be a minimum of three feet apart for social distancing.

“We’re going to try to keep students in smaller groups again,” Wells said.

Unvaccinated students would need to be quarantined in the event of any exposure to the virus, Wells said.

Meals will continue to be eaten in the classroom and custodial staff will clean surfaces on a regular basis throughout the day.

Board members said after such an unprecedented year they look forward to returning to a traditional five-day school week.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and we’re on the way,” Chair Priscilla Liggon said.

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