Elmore County Schools Superintendent Richard Dennis said the school is prepared to begin school the 2020-21 year Aug.10 no matter the health level the school system is under at that time.

“At which ever level we enter we are prepared to start school and begin the process,” Dennis said. “The health level will not be determined until later in the summer. I think there is a lot that will transpire between now and the end of July and it may dictate what takes place.”

In a release distributed Friday, the school system said students will have the option to participate in the regular school program or through a virtual program at each of the system’s schools this upcoming year if students or their families have reservations about being around a large group of people.

The school system recently announced the purchase of Google Chromebooks so every student in the county has access to the virtual program from school and home. A Chromebook will be issued to each student at the start of the school year.

The virtual option will allow students who are uncomfortable, or whose parents aren’t comfortable, during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue their studies.

Each school will conduct a survey of parents to determine the number of students who intend to pursue a virtual-only curriculum and to identify any health concerns before the school year which is scheduled to begin Aug. 10.

New attendance policy and procedures were also announced last week.

The updated policy will give students the opportunity to be counted “e-Present” if they are at home sick and complete coursework on Chromebooks through the school system’s virtual platform.

“As far as attendance, the way we are doing attendance now may never change,” he said. “It will potentially continue on and we will continue to have blended attendance. We are just trying to react to the situation so if people are concerned and want to take a month away from being in class at school or come January or February and they feel better about the situation and want to come back they can.”

The school system recently updated its attendance policy for students so if they attend school online it counts as if those students physically attended class.

“We are able to do this (online school) because we have our own software,” he said. “We are also 1-to-1 with our technology.”

This updated policy will be added to the latest edition of the Elmore County student handbook and eventually posted to the websites of the schools in the county and the Elmore County Board of Education’s website.

Parents will be notified of changes to the school start date if determined to be necessary. He said the state health department is expected to provide general guidance and it will be left up to each county school board to determine what is best for its students.

“It will be a county-by-county decision where we look at the current data and decide (how to operate schools),” he said. “I feel confident with what we have in place and we are prepared. We have a lot of work to do, but we are going to be back at school in August.”

Notifications will be communicated as future directives are received from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama State Department of Education.