Military officials are working on a plan that will see children attending schools on bases around the world resume in-person instruction this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To the maximum extent possible," officials will operate brick and mortar schools on a regular, full-time schedule, according to guidelines and protocols issued by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
Students will not attend school on alternating days or any other atypical schedules.
"If the facility is open for business as usual, then the schools will be, as well," Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.
"But the goal of DoDEA is to have in-person classes or make it available for having in-person classes and, if not, to conduct virtual schooling," he added.
The education part of the Pentagon said in the guidelines that students and families who aren't comfortable with the children returning to in-person classes can partake in virtual classes for the fall semester.
“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," Dr. Judith Minor, the DoDEA Americas director of Student Excellence, said in a statement.
"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," she added.
Teachers who object to returning to returning to brick and mortar schools were encouraged to send intent forms to teach at the virtual school for a semester or the entire school year.
DoDEA operates 160 schools across 11 countries and seven states. It employs approximately 8,700 educators.
Even as plans move forward at numerous bases to resume in-person instruction, the slated start dates were delayed for some schools.
Schools inside bases in the southeast U.S. that were scheduled to reopen on dates ranging from Aug. 3 to Aug. 18 will now reopen on dates from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24.
The bases include Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Fort Benning in Georgia.
Minor said the change will help officials fully prepare to welcome students back.