If Osceola County students want to physically attend school this fall when the school year’s scheduled to start Aug. 10, they’ll be able to choose to do that.

They’ll also be able to choose to conduct virtual learning through their school or the Osceola Virtual School.

It’s all part of the “Ready. Set. Start Smart” plan the Osceola County School Board unanimously approved Tuesday night.

You can see the entire plan – including how families can make their selection by July 15 – at the plan’s website: www.osceolaschools.net/StartSMART

Superintendent Debra Pace said all three plans would be made available after 45 percent of families and teachers polled last month said they’d prefer to return to face-to-face instruction, and 30 percent said they’d like to go back to the digital learning from the spring, and 25 percent liked a blend of the two.

But with the American Medical Association giving guidance that, “Reopening schools this fall is an urgent national priority,” and that thanks to a “COVID slide” that 30 percent of student learning gains could be lost in reading if schools don’t reopen, and 50 percent in math, much energy was put into reopening the doors.

Working through its Back to School Task Force, which included health officials like doctors from the Nemours Children’s Hospital and Osceola County Health Department Director Vianca McCluskey, extensive precautions have been put in place to limit exposure and promote health and safety of students and staff.

“School is still more than a month out, but the district is the county’s leading employer,” Pace said.

If face-to-face instruction at school is selected, parents of students who are eligible for transportation will also register their child for a seat on a school bus at that time. Screening will begin at home — parents are asked to check for fever and symptoms, and keep students home if there are any.

“Perfect attendance is not a goal of this plan,” Pace said.

Students will wear face coverings on buses and through most of the school day (schools will provide each student five of them), except when working independently at their desks if there’s space. Hand washing and sanitizing will be encouraged frequently.

And, of course, as CDC guidance changes, or if there are virus flare-ups, there could be changes.

“The plan for today is the plan for today,” Pace said. “We are prepared to pivot to digital for a child, or a class, or a school, or the district.”