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Fox Creek High School's board of directors, in a meeting July 20, approved Aug. 17 as the first day of the 2020-21 school year, giving unanimous approval to a plan that was designed by a committee over the past several months.

Plans are for the charter school, which primarily serves residents of Edgefield County, to start Phase 2 with regard to COVID-19 precautions. The phase, in relation to the pandemic, calls for students to "participate in hybrid learning attending school two days a week and participating in synchronous learning for the remainder of the week." The campus, in such a situation, is described as having "limitations."

The board voted for the phase – barring any major surprises – to remain in effect through the end of September. Principal Josh Trahan indicated that the current expectation is for the school to have 703 students in the academic year ahead.

In the approved arrangement for starting classes, students will be divided into two groups and attend on their assigned days. Families that prefer not to send their student(s) to school will be able to participate, at home, in synchronous learning.

Trahan said, "The goal for us is to, number one, try to do something that we feel like we could manage and manage well, following all the safety precautions, and two, we felt it was very important to see the kids at least long enough to provide them devices and instructions, should we end up online before it's all said and done."

The other possible phases, as determined by state and local health officials, include Phase 1 and Phase 3. The former, listed as "low spread" in terms of the pandemic's local impact, calls for students to attend school five days a week. "Adjustments will be made to the normal day to ensure student health and safety precautions are followed," as stated in a document handed out at Monday's meeting. As also indicated for Phase 2, families that prefer not to send their student(s) to school will be able to participate in synchronous learning at home. 

The latter, under the category of "campus closed," has students participating solely in distance learning.

Various guidelines and requirements were also discussed in the Monday meeting, such as having face coverings and medical masks "strongly encouraged at all times," having hallways flow only in one direction and having restrooms cleaned after each class change. Students will not be permitted on campus before 7:45 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. 

Among the committee members who forged the plan were several school employees (including Trahan), medical personnel and parents.

The principal noted, "We actually surveyed both our staff and our parents, and (from) the parents, we got about two-thirds feedback, and of the two thirds, we got back that less than half wanted to come back full-time, and about a quarter wanted to come back on some type of hybrid schedule, and then probably somewhere between 10 and 15% preferred online."

Fox Creek opened its doors in 2004-05, having its first base of operations on Martintown Road, near the Aiken County line, in a building formerly used as a video-gambling parlor. The initial student body numbered about 118.

Some of the school's earliest advocates, in pushing for the establishment of a charter school, indicated a strong desire to have a campus to serve the Merriwether community, partially to allow students to attend school without having to spend an hour or more every day on buses going to and from Strom Thurmond High School, the largest high school in Edgefield County. Classes on the current Fox Creek campus began in the 2009-10 academic year.