The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is releasing its operational guidelines and protocols for schools and providing additional student learning options for the 2020-2021 school year.The education activity recently published its DoDEA COVID-19 Operational Guidelines and Protocols for Schools on the DoDEA Return to School website HERE, which provides district and school leaders with general guidelines and protocols for establishing and maintaining safe school environments that reduce the risk of COVID-19 virus spread.To the maximum extent possible, according to its guidance, DoDEA schools will operate brick and mortar schools on a regular full-time schedule when installations are in Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Alpha or Bravo. There will not be alternating days, half-days, or staggered schedules.For students and families with health vulnerabilities related to COVID-19, or for those who are concerned about their students returning to brick and mortar schools, DoDEA is offering a virtual option for students in kindergarten to 12th grade for the first semester. Student registration for the virtual option is open from now until July 28 with a school start date of Aug. 24.“We understand that some families may have circumstances where they do not wish to or are unable to send their child[ren] to the brick-and-mortar setting,” said officials. “While we have confidence in our communities to enact mitigating measures in conjunction with local health and CDC guidance, we will also provide a virtual platform for higher-risk students to continue to learn virtually.”The virtual school will now include instruction in elementary (K-5) and middle school (6-8) grades. Families who elect the virtual option will have dedicated online DoDEA teachers in a cohort model with other students from their school and/or district and region. This expansion is focused solely on responding to current needs. DoDEA already has a fully accredited virtual high school high for grades 9-12.Officials said there is no plan to permanently expand DoDEA Virtual High School to grades K-12.Additionally, DoDEA is accepting intent forms from current DoDEA teachers who are interested in a detail to the virtual school for a semester or the full school year. Teachers will have from now until July 28 to submit the DoDEA Virtual School Educator Detail Interest Form for a short-term detail to the virtual school.To learn more about DoDEA’s Return to School guidelines and protocols, visit https://www.dodea.edu/returntoschool.cfm.