Students in Massac Unit 1 and Joppa-Maple Grove 38 districts will return to class Aug. 17, in calendars approved Monday night by the respective school boards.

Plans for the 2020-21 school year included “blended” options allowing for both in-class and remote learning in both districts, reflecting efforts to keep students, staff and parents as safe as possible during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Massac Unit 1, approximately half of the students will attend class Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other half Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will be a built-in remote learning day.

Full-time remote learning will also be available for parents who choose that option.

“We realize this is going to be a hardship on parents, since it’s not the same schedule we usually do,” Supt. Jason Hayes told WMOK Radio in an interview Wednesday morning.

“We felt this was pretty much the best we can do right now.”

In a rationale posted on the district’s website, the three priorities for the return to school include: keeping students and staff as safe as possible; creating the best learning environment given the circumstances; and remaining flexible to be able to adapt to change.

Another goal, besides having kids back in school was “not having to open up and shut back down (if conditions or state mandates were to change),” Hayes told the radio station. “That type of inconsistency is more difficult for parents and students.”

The district has also built in “checkpoints” every few weeks to evaluate the situation and make necessary changes, the superintendent said.

Joppa-Maple Grove parents have three options for their children: in-person instruction Monday through Friday; remote learning via computers and Chromebooks; and for those with limited internet access, paper-based instruction, said Jeffrey Dufour, principal of the junior-senior high school and Maple Grove Elementary.

Internet access is always a concern, particularly in rural districts like Joppa-Maple Grove, he said.

“I think there’s a lot of families that have gone out and either asked for more bandwidth or have decided to get internet access that haven’t gotten it before,” Dufour said.

Both districts will be following COVID-related requirements put forth by state education and health officials including face mask requirements and social distancing.

Joppa-Maple Grove has built in time for teachers to take students outside for breaks as needed, to give students a break from mask-wearing requirements, the principal said.

“We know as adults, and we’ve been wearing them a while, they can get quite cumbersome, so we want to the best we can,” Dufour said.

The principal said, despite the challenges, students, parents and staff are ready to go back to school.

“Regardless of whether they have students in the classroom (or learning remotely), the teachers miss the collaboration,” he said.

“I got to see a couple of students and their mom recently. They’re looking forward to getting back, although it’s going to be a bit different.”

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