Reopening Schools: Jefferson Co. Schools layout plans to welcome students back in the Fall

Education

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — School systems across East Tennessee are working to draft up plans for to welcome back students come August.

Shane Johnston, superintendent for Jefferson County Schools, says they are focused on not only reopening, but reopening well; following safety guidelines and providing options for parents for students to safely learn.

With the ever-changing climate COVID-19 facilitates, Johnston says the plans in place are fluid and are subject to change.

However, he wants parents to know that they do plan to honor the academic calendar year the school board approved in October with teachers returning July 28 and students set to return August 3.

Right now, Johnston says they plan to hold in-person learning with a virtual option.

The virtual option, Johnston says, will be a combination of instruction-based learning from their teachers with support from parents at home. The students doing the distance learning option would have direct contact with teachers, via email or phone, and have independent work.

Students reporting on campus for in-person learning will also be subject to some changes regarding health and safety. Johnston says they plan to have temperature checks at the school every morning, with procedures in place if a student is running a fever. Johnston says they are also looking at limiting movement between classrooms. For instance, in elementary and middle school instead of the kids moving from class to class, it’s the teacher instead.

“As much a s possible and as practical we’re goignt ot make sure kids are putting distance, physically distancing themselves. “

As for common areas like bathrooms, the cafeteria and hallways — Johnston notes that they are still working out plans to keep kids socially distanced in those areas.

Jefferson County schools are also planning to run buses, but encourage parents if they can to pick up and drop off their kids to school.

When it comes to protective face coverings, Johnston says they are encouraged and recommended but not required; with masks even added to student’s back-to-school supply lists. As of now, employees are under the same recommendations, however for employees working in the cafeteria and handling food or work with “medically fragile” students could be required to wear a mask.

When it comes to options for learning, Johnston says there is a third, hybrid option for students taking vocational classes and/or AP classes. There could be a scenario where a high school student may stay home three blocks per day, but come in person for one class to do a skills-base type assessment, like welding.

Johnston says they have an open line of communication with parents through a question email chain. Questions parents put forward help facilitate conversations and influence plans for the school year says the superintendent.

As the school year approaches and the future unknown as COVID-19 remains, Johnston says they will provide weekly updates on their website and social media pages.

“The safety and health of our employees, students and families are of upmost importance as we try to safely reopen,” said Johnston.

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