East TN school districts keeping potential coronavirus impacts on their radar


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — School districts across East Tennessee are keeping a close eye on possible impacts of the coronavirus.

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Keep in mind, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tennessee, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s preparing for the potential of community spread in the U.S.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel heard from several local school systems, monitoring their plans to help keep students healthy.

“Our first priority is, of course, to keep the kids as healthy and as safe as possible,” said Ryan Sutton with Anderson County Schools.

Sutton said top school officials and nursing staff are making plans to meet with the local health department, while also reviewing good health practices.

RELATED: Knox County emergency operations plan in place for new viruses

“Sending out an email to our district leaders and telling them to remind our students how to cough properly, if you cough on your hands make sure you wash it, proper hand-washing methods,” he said.

In the midst of flu season, Sutton says they’re already thoroughly disinfecting classrooms.

“Our maintenance staff is taking it very seriously this year to make sure that they’re using that disinfectant on all the surfaces at least twice a week, and also doing those deep cleaning on those places that are heavily touched: Doorknobs, rails, things like that,” he said.

If the coronavirus does hit East Tennessee, forcing schools to close for illness, the district has already thought ahead with one more “non-instructional” day left in the school year.

“We have one more of those days left that we haven’t used and beyond that, we have a plan to first extend the school day by just a little bit for the remaining school days. If we have an additional day after that, we’re going to take an in-service day before spring break, and then beyond that, we’ll have to look at some of those other days that teachers might have in-service, in order to make that calendar work, but we’re hoping that it doesn’t go that far,” Sutton said.

Anderson County is not the only local school system paying attention to the coronavirus.

Knox County Schools released the following statement Thursday evening:

“Dear Knox County Schools families,
Given recent information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I wanted to make you aware that Knox County Schools is having ongoing discussions on how best to prepare in the event of a possible case of COVID-19 (a novel coronavirus) in our schools and community.

As with any public health concern that may impact our students or staff, we work closely with the Knox County Health Department for guidance. And while there are policies in place that guide the district, we continue to work to ensure that we are planning appropriate precautionary steps.

The CDC has stated that the immediate risk of this new virus is currently low; however, we are asking for your help by taking standard health precautions to help avoid illness, such as:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Use a tissue when you sneeze or cough and then throw it in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Stay home when sick. If with fever, stay home and be fever free without the use of fever-reducing medication, for at least 24 hours before returning to school.

The well-being and health of our students and staff are always a top priority. We appreciate your continued support of Knox County Schools and your cooperation in maintaining a healthy school environment.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas

Statement from Rich Fulford, CAK Head of School:

“Christian Academy of Knoxville has been closely monitoring the CDC alerts, and collaborating with the national Christian education community as well as school healthcare networks. If the need arises, we do have a plan in place including (but not limited to) the ability for remote learning via our 1:1 school-owned technology. Locally, the public and private school communities, including our school nurses, have been sharing ideas and approaches to best serve all of our students. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue best practices to stay healthy including hand washing and staying home when sick.”

Rich Fulford, CAK

Statement from Loudon County Director of Schools, Mike Garren:

“Our administrative team has begun discussion on various options if that becomes an issue in our community. However, we would like to see what guidance the Tennessee Department of Education and Tennessee Department of Health provides moving forward since we will most likely need to comply with their requirements and/or recommendations. In the meantime, we will monitor the situation and evaluate the potential effectiveness of various instructional alternatives.”

Loudon County Director of Schools, Mike Garren


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