Johnson City teachers say they have ‘full confidence’ in district’s safety protocols when returning to classes this Fall


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Following the release of its safety protocols for the upcoming school year, officials with Johnson City Schools are confident this will be a safe year for students, despite rising COVID-19 cases in the community and the looming Delta Variant.

With some schools set to return on Monday, August 2, are there concerns in going back to the classroom among teachers and school staff? According to Bess Laufenberg, a teacher at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, she said it’s a mixed bag.

“Of course there’s going to be a lot of nervousness because we are in a high-risk area and we are face-to-face with people and talking to people every day, and it wouldn’t surprise me if people were more comfortable wearing masks when they’re in larger groups, even when they’re outside sometimes,” said Laufenberg.

Johnson City Schools are set to return on August 4, and Deanna Mattaliamo, a teacher at Liberty Bell Middle School, said she feels confident in the district’s plans.

“We are very confident in the protocols that have been set up by the school system. Our safety and our student’s safety is their number one priority,” said Mattaliamo.

Just this past Tuesday, Johnson City Schools announced masks will still be optional while on campus, but given recent events, Superintendent Steve Barnett feels face coverings will still be very present on campuses across the district.

“We’re going to see a lot of families that choose to send their child with a mask, and we’ll have a lot of staff members who choose to wear a mask to school, and we’ll have some that do not. So it is still an option for families, for their children, and for our employees with Johnson City Schools,” said Dr. Barnett.

The biggest worry teachers have doesn’t really revolve around safety, but rather what another shutdown would mean for these students.

“They have shown us over the last year that regardless of what’s going on, they’re ready to learn and they’re understanding of the changes that happen,” said Mattaliamo.

While there is a plan in place currently for the upcoming school year, making necessary adjustments as the year goes on is not likely, but also not out of the question according to the superintendent.

“If we need to adjust anything, we’ll do that, but I’m hearing a lot of positive things and excitement. I’m not hearing about any anxiety or getting any emails from employees about that at this point,” said Dr. Barnett.

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