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Friday will be online-only day for Anniston schools

Starting Oct. 19, students in Anniston schools will spend Fridays studying from home, under a policy change adopted by the Anniston Board of Education on Thursday.

In a special called meeting at Anniston Middle School, board members voted 5-0 to approve the new schedule, in which students will come to school in person Monday through Thursday, followed by an “e-day” every Friday. 

The change is the school system’s latest attempt to adapt to COVID-19. Superintendent Ray Hill said teachers are juggling both in-person classes and online instruction with students who have chosen virtual school, and they need a day to focus on the online work.

“We’ve had an opportunity to meet with teachers to discuss with them how strenuous this is,” Hill said.

Anniston has been among the most cautious of local school systems where the virus is concerned, starting the school year with weeks of online-only instruction before welcoming some students back for in-person class.

Hill said the “e-days” will serve as something akin to a planning period for teachers, as well as a time to train on virtual school technology and to work with students online in small groups. 

So far, the Anniston area has yet to see the second wave of COVID-19 cases many health experts have predicted for the fall. A post-Labor Day surge, predicted by some, didn’t happen, and the rate of new cases has remained steady since mid-August.

Even so, Hill said school leaders have already developed schedules to follow if in-person schooling again shuts down completely. 

The school board on Thursday also approved a contract with the company Soliant Health that will allow the school system to hire additional nurses quickly if needed. 

“It’s almost an emergency type of setup,” Hill said.

After the meeting, Hill said the contract won’t cost the school board anything unless new nurses are hired. School board members asked how the nurses would be paid for, and Hill said that money would likely come from federal funding for students with disabilities, if nurses are needed for special education students, and from federal coronavirus relief funds.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.