NORRIS, Tenn. (WATE) — Students across East Tennessee headed back to school on Tuesday, whether it was in person, fully virtual or a mix.
In Anderson County, it was a mixed start.
Ryan Sutton, spokesperson for Anderson County Schools, said the district didn’t see a lot of students switch from virtual to in-person, or vice versa, for the new semester.
That means class sizes remain about the same size.
One thing they do have to worry about coming back from the holiday break is a rise in COVID-19 cases, like many counties saw after Thanksgiving.
Sutton said the district is keeping an eye on the numbers.
“I think it’s just going to be a natural trend as a lot of folks get out there, they travel, they see different people than that are normally in their social groups. So, it’s something that we keep an eye on and we’re looking at those numbers every single day,” Sutton said.
Some teachers were a little concerned about the possibility of a rise in cases again, but they said they are prepared for whatever happens.
“Definitely it’s in the back of my mind, however I feel like the protocol of this county is set in place to where we are safe being in person,” Laurie Templin, a second-grade teacher at Norris Elementary, said.
Both Templin and Sutton said the same COVID-19 guidelines are in place this semester as they were at the beginning of the year.
Sutton said he believes those guidelines were what kept the case count lower in their district.
Teachers wear masks at all times, but students have the option of not wearing a mask during class if they are socially distanced or have a barrier between their desks.
“So when students aren’t socially distanced in the classroom, they’ll have the shields between them. And we feel that’s been really successful in keeping the transmission rate down in Anderson County Schools,” Sutton said.
Templin said the shields and masks aren’t stopping her students from getting a good education.
She said it’s better they are in class, rather than learning at home.
“We see that day in and day out–how wonderful they interact together and their collaboration, and you just cannot replicate that virtually,” Templin said.
Of course, if they have to go virtual, Templin said she and her students will work around that barrier.
With the possibility of having an uptick in cases after the holidays, Sutton said they are urging parents to be vigilant about self-reporting exposures or positive cases to school staff.
He said he knows how inconvenient quarantining might be, but it keep everyone else safe.
“Taking care of others through this is probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned with COVID. Tt might not effect your direct family, but the family that it effects–that the disease was transmitted with–could be the family that maybe has the more severe side effects, or even death,” Sutton said.
Templin said self-reporting also helps other students be able to stay in class to learn.
“Understanding that if you have been exposed or you do feel those symptoms coming on, to report that to the school and that way we can make sure that everybody stays safe through this,” Templin said.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be another way teachers, and therefore students, could be a little more protected while in class.
Sutton said some of the school nurses have already received their first dose of the vaccine.
He said the district just recently received notification that teachers could be receiving their vaccines as early as February, however he said that is all they know about it so far.
Sutton said because the district doesn’t have any specifics, they haven’t talked about vaccinations with the teachers.
Templin already knows what she’ll do though.
“I will be the first one in line if possible. Definitely. I’m ready to get vaccinated,” Templin said.
Templin said the vaccine will keep her family safer and give her more peace of mind when she does head to work.
Although this school year is different, and things haven’t really changed from the fall semester to the spring semester, Templin wanted parents to know teachers are making school as normal as possible, while also staying safe.
“I know a lot of parents and adults are worried that this is going to have a lasting impact on their child, and it will be a memory, but these kids are so resilient through it all,” Templin said.
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