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The called Barrow County Board of Education meeting that had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday has been canceled at the request of chair Lynn Stevens, superintendent Chris McMichael said. 

The meeting had been requested by Stevens for the board to discuss her proposal that "non-essential" school personnel be furloughed as the school district prepares to begin the 2020-21 year entirely online amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The board, which had intended to begin the school year Aug. 17 (two weeks later than originally scheduled) with options for in-person and distance learning, changed course Wednesday and voted 6-3 to start with 100 percent virtual learning.

McMichael recommended the change due to a rising level of COVID-19 infections in the community and because 91 teachers and staffers have had to go into a 14-day quarantine after either testing positive for the virus, having a suspected case or having direct exposure to someone with a positive test. McMichael also unveiled a draft of a phased-in return plan to schools, which would be staggered by grade level but would only begin once infection levels have dropped below a certain threshold. 

Stevens was one of three board members to vote against McMichael's recommendation, citing several issues posed by children not being in the school buildings and saying that the district should find a work-around plan for the teacher absences. 

In a summary for Friday's lone agenda item, Stevens wrote: "Furloughs are a first step in the process of bringing students back into the schools. If the buildings are shut down, we will not need assistant principals, media center specialists, lunchroom workers, bus drivers, clerks, admins in front offices, coaches, p.e. instructors, etc."

McMichael said Thursday he would not make a recommendation to furlough those employees.

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