TCES School

The school board will examine a proposal to resume in-person classes after the Christmas break, with a trial period at the elementary school before that.

Trousdale County’s School Board will examine during their Oct. 15 meeting a proposed option for returning to full-time, in-person classes after the Christmas break.

The board will meet on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium at Trousdale County High School. The meeting, which is open to the public, was moved because of expectations for higher attendance than would fit social distancing guidelines at the Board of Education building.

At the board’s September meeting, members requested that Director of Schools Clint Satterfield get feedback from teachers and staff regarding various scenarios for reopening schools full time. Satterfield said he conducted a survey of school staff, both teachers and non-certified.

“The board asked me to run a survey of our employees about their perceptions of returning back to school on a five-day traditional schedule,” Satterfield told The Vidette. “Also their perceptions of wearing a protective mask. We’ll give those to the board to help with their decision-making.

“They want to discuss the possibilities and options of remaining on a hybrid schedule or returning to a traditional five-day schedule. I think there will be a lot of discussion.”

During Tuesday’s work session, Satterfield presented results from that survey and a proposal for full-time school that resulted from that survey.

In that survey, 89.3% of staff supported the current mask policy and 81.2% favored staying with the current hybrid model. Asked if they favored returning to a traditional five-day-a-week schedule, only 26.8% said they agreed or strongly agreed.

Satterfield added that if the board opts for traditional classes after Christmas, it would be near impossible to return to the hybrid model if there was a surge in COVID-19 cases.

While the school system reported no new COVID-19 cases over the past week according to the state’s district dashboard, there were 27 reported new cases in Trousdale County last week, going from 1,687 on Oct. 5 to 1,714 (34 active) as of Oct. 13.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if we go back five days a week, we’re going to have more sickness,” School Board Chairman Johnny Kerr said.

“We are scared to death of a shutdown,” said TCHS Principal Teresa Dickerson. “We know that didn’t go well (in the spring).”

How plan would work

Under the proposal to be discussed at Thursday’s meeting, elementary students in grades K-5 would return to school full-time after the Thanksgiving break for the remainder of the fall semester, from Nov. 30-Dec. 18. That would serve as a trial run to allow the board to assess how successful in-person, full-time classes would operate.

After the Christmas break classes at the elementary and middle school would either resume full time or continue with the hybrid model, with a final determination to be made by the board at its December meeting. The plan has the hybrid model continuing at the high school for the spring semester.

Parents will be asked to submit a Learning Model Agreement between Oct. 26 and Nov. 6 choosing whether to have their children go to school traditionally or hybrid, depending on the board’s decision, or transition to fully virtual classes.

Because of requirements regarding both class size and virtual education, the parents’ decision for their child generally could not be changed after the Nov. 6 deadline. Elementary parents may get a chance to change their decision right before the Christmas break.

“We’re not sure how parents will respond to this: whether they will stay in virtual school, return to in-person learning, or they may choose to home school,” Satterfield said.

“It’s not just us making decisions, parents are going to have to make decisions too,” added Kerr.

If the board opts for traditional in-person classes, students currently in virtual school will be affected. The board has solicited bids for third-party vendors to provide virtual classes in that instance, as Trousdale County teachers would not have time to teach five days a week in class and prepare virtual lessons. Those bids were to be opened Wednesday and presented at Thursday’s meeting. Additionally, the board has not found a vendor able to provide virtual classes for grades K-5.

“Parents would have to understand that if you had Miss Jones for Social Studies last semester in virtual school, they might get a teacher in New Jersey. That would have to be explained,” Satterfield said.

At Monday’s meeting of the county’s Education Committee, Satterfield and Kerr updated commissioners on work to replace the roof at Jim Satterfield Middle School.

Satterfield said construction was ongoing but that it had been determined that the roof of the gymnasium needed replacing as well in order to prevent water damage.

While the gym was not part of the original plan to replace the JSMS roof, it can be done using contingency money that was place in the budget appropriated by the County Commission, or roughly $110,000. An estimated extra $5,000 will be needed but will come from the school system’s funds.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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