On-post school will remain in a virtual option for the upcoming school year, the Fort Jackson commander announced Aug. 12 as part of a Return to School Virtual Town hall with Fort Jackson and local educational leaders.“There are a lot questions out there, there is still a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress with regards to returning to school and the options that are available,” said Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander at the start of the town hall.“My role is not to make popular decisions,” Beagle said, “my job is to make tough decisions.”His decision will make it easier for students and parents to be safe.If “we put this responsibility on the parents it can be hit or miss,” he said. “You may do the right things by your child, but somebody else may not, given the requirements that would be levied on parents if they were to attend a brick and mortar or in-person student with DODEA. And I wasn’t comfortable with that option.”He said he was also uncomfortable with children being in school in case there was an outbreak it would be very difficult to conduct contact tracing.“It is very difficult to trace if you have an outbreak or a cluster in a school, and then we would have to trace that down to part of our workforce,” Beagle said. “Many of you have heard me say, ‘A threat to our work force is a threat to our mission.’”The installation has coordinated many times with DODEA regarding the schools and determined the schools on-post were going to remain at the same health protection condition, or HPCON. On-post schools will be “virtual and we will do everything we can to lower the risk and fill the gaps as much as possible for our service members and civilian workforce that have kids that attend those schools or our (Child Development Centers).”He kicked off the town hall by illustrating how important it is to get feedback from the community. The post has conducted three surveys for CYS patrons residing on post that garnered 223 responses. Of these 52% preferred brick and mortar schooling, while 48% preferred virtual.“We wanted to hear your voice and we are wanting to hear everybody’s voice,” he said acknowledging he reads every comment returned on the surveys. “Hopefully this town hall will allow us to get to more of the parents out there and to hear your voice, to hear your questions, so we can adjust.”The surveys also indicated that 57% of respondents did not have a plan for their child’s education.“We to want sure everyone is comfortable,” Beagle added. “That’s why we have this great team up here with me tonight to help you … make the best decisions.”Beagle was joined by Dr. Traci Young-Cooper, Director of Richland County School District One’s Office of Extended Day Programs; Dr. Marshalynn Franklin, assistant superintendent for Richland School District 2; Brian Perry, community superintendent for the Department of Defense Education Activity in South Carolina/Fort Jackson; Sunny Bolton, director of Fort Jackson’s Child, Youth Services; and Mark Cox, deputy to the garrison commander.“We are going to start school in remote setting,” Perry said. DODEA schools has two options, one is remote learning where on-post teachers instruct their students online, and the DODEA Virtual School that is usually open for 9th-12th grades which will be opening up for Kindergarten through 8th grade. The virtual school is currently closed for enrollment except for those Families that may be “PCSing in.”Information on the opening of on-post schools, including a virtual meet-and-greet with teachers, will be provided to parents no later than Aug. 19. If parents have not received school opening materials they are asked to contact their school.Cooper said she was “so very proud to be part of this” and that the school districts are “navigating through uncharted terrain.” Richland 1 believes that a clear strategy between teaching and learning and an “unwavering commitment to our safety and protocols we feel very confident that this year will be highly successful.”The district is set to use two models of learning: a Phase-In learning and a R1 Virtual School. The phase in learning is a three-phase model with the Phase 1 being virtual/e-learning; Phase 2 being virtual/e-learning with a blend of traditional schooling; and Phase 3 in the traditional brick and mortar schools.The move from phase to phase will be “predicated on (S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control) data relative to the relative infection rate and COVID-19 community spread,” Cooper said.The Virtual School is a year-long virtual school that already has more than 6,000 applications. If a student enrolls in the virtual school they must complete the entire year. Wrap around services such as English as a Second Language are still being offered.“We are all singing the same song,” Franklin said. “Our priority in Richland 2, as in other places, is the health and safety of our students, employees and our communities. Our second priority is the education of our students.”Richland 2 schools has a phased-based education plan on input from their stakeholders, and based on COVID activity in Richland County. Incident rate, return from incident rate and the percent positive. As long as those rates are high, students will remain in distance learning.“We are so looking for those ratings changing and moving to moderate, and then to low so we can return to some sort of normalcy or traditional programs,” Franklin said.The phases for Richland 2 are similar to Richland 1.Richland 1 and 2 will start Aug. 31.Bolton said CYS supports virtual learning by facilitating a child’s schedule through virtual learning days, providing before and after school care, and transporting student to and from DODEA schools when traditional brick and mortar school are available.Parents of CYS School Age/Youth services should know that by the beginning of the school year CYS will have a capacity of 150 (Kindergarten -5th grade) students, and 50 (6th – 12th grade) students. CYS will also operate programs before and after virtual schedules for all children and will not change their operating hours.“We are going to help you, help the kids, get through what their day should look like,” Bolton said. This includes helping them to log in and help with their daily schedules.CYS’ priority remains to children of single/dual military parents, mission essential single civilian parent, or active duty mission essential spouses. Mission Essential Care applications can be acquired through the parent’s chain of command.Information about DODEA schools can be found at: https://www.dodea.edu/Americas/southeast/fortJackson/index.cfm and to enroll visit https://www.dodea.edu/registration-process.cfmFor more information about Richland 1 visit the district’s home page at https://www.richlandone.org./, or to enroll visit: https://www.richlandone.org/Page/4879.For more information about Richland 2 visit the district’s home page at https://www.richland2.org., or to enroll visit: https:// www.richland2.org/Departments/Enrollment-Registration/New-Enrollments