PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE)- The Sevier County Schools Board of Education voted Monday to push back the start of the 2020-2021 school year by four days.

The extra four days will help teachers and staff plan and train for students to be in their classrooms or online.

The start of the school year will also be staggered; students with last names between A and L will start school on Aug. 17 while students with last names between M and Z will start on Aug. 18 and then all students will be back Aug. 19.

The board also voted to implement the changes staff made to policies and procedures in light of COVID-19:

  • Students, parents, staff and visitors are expected to wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible.
  • Students will wear masks on buses, entering the school and leaving the school, in common areas or hallways or when social distancing isn’t possible.
  • The district will pass out cloth masks with lanyards to every student at the beginning of the year. The lanyard will help students know where their mask is at all times.
  • Everyone will have their temperature checked before entering school.
  • Sevier County school staff said they tried to implement as many changes as possible to encourage social distancing.
  • Bus drivers will try to limit one student per seat or group siblings together in one seat, but some students will have to share seats.
  • Students will no longer have lunch in the cafeteria. They will eat their lunch either in their classroom or outside.
  • Principals will develop a new pick-up and drop-off schedule that helps keep families six feet apart and requires fewer people going in and out of the building.
  • Similar to most school districts in East Tennessee, Sevier County parents will have the option to send their child back to in-person classes on having them enrolled in remote learning.
  • Sevier County created a hybrid plan, essentially connecting both in-person and remote models so students enrolled in either option won’t miss anything, even if every student has to learn from home in the event of extended closures.
  • Students enrolled in remote learning will be held accountable for completing their work in numerous ways.
  • Students will have to turn in daily assignments and have the same amount of class time (although not all of it will be on the computer).
  • Students will have to talk with their teacher every day and attend required in-person assessment days at school.
  • Parents will be expected to actively participate in their child’s remote learning, especially for those in grades Pre-K to K-2.
  • They will need to make sure their child submits all the necessary work on a daily basis to avoid absences.
  • Parents will need to make transportation plans for the required in-person assessment days at school.
  • Families without access to the internet will have some options to work with. The district will have certain school parking lots with Wifi access and limited hotspots will be available.

For more information about the upcoming school year, visit the district’s website here.

The district also made plans for if/when a student or staff member is exposed to COVID-19.

They can only return to school if a health provider can confirm the person wasn’t infected with COVID-19; and if they tested positive, they can return if they isolate for 10 days plus 24 hours of no symptoms.