Trousdale County Schools were prepared to open Thursday under its blended model that will incorporate both in-person and online classes.
On Tuesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee held a press conference in which he issued recommendations from the state Department of Health and Department of Education with regards to opening schools. The governor said in-person learning was the “preferred option” for districts.
“Providing parents a choice in their children’s education is incredibly important,” said Lee. “In-person learning is the medically sound, preferred option. Our state is doing everything we can to work with local school districts and ensure that in-person learning is made available in a way that protects the health and safety of our students and educators, and this plan helps us accomplish that goal.”
Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn did not say that schools must resume in-person classes, but said it was their expectation that all districts return students to campus.
Trousdale County Schools are scheduled to start on July 30 with roughly half of students attending Monday and Thursday, with the other half going on Tuesday and Friday. On other days, students will learn at home via online lessons, Chromebooks or paper & pencil options for younger grades.
The school system released a 28-page comprehensive educational plan on Monday that is designed to address parents’ questions. That plan is available on the district’s website at tcschools.org.
“It puts us in the middle. We can flip the switch to distance learning and be able to serve students a lot better than we were able to do in the spring,” Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said during last week’s meeting of the county’s Education Committee.
Satterfield said Tuesday he was reviewing accompanying documents that came with the state’s recommendations and could not immediately comment.
Among the state’s health recommendations were:
• Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 must isolate themselves at home for 10 days from the onset of their symptoms or 10 days from the date their test was done if they never developed symptoms. Fever must be gone and they must be feeling better for at least 24 hours.
• Anyone who has been within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days from the last time they were with that person. These time periods do not change with a doctor’s note or with a negative test.
• If a child is ill, parents should not send them to school where they could infect others. If a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, parents are asked to assist the Department of Health by contacting the child’s close contacts so those individuals can quarantine at home.
Under Trousdale’s plan, students will have to wear masks when entering the school building and during classroom transitions, but not in the classroom itself as social distancing can be maintained.
Lee said Tuesday the state would be providing no-cost PPE, including facemasks for any school stakeholder who wants or needs one, thermometers for every school, and face shields for every staff member. This includes 298,000 cloth reusable masks for teachers, and 27 million disposable masks for students that will be distributed by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
Every classroom teacher will receive a full-year classroom disinfecting kit to use so no teacher pays for these materials out of their own pockets. The kits include hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves and masks.
School nurses will be provided with surgical masks, gloves, protective gowns, and face shields.
Asked Tuesday if the state would release the number of COVID-19 cases in schools, Schwinn said the state would not but that districts would have the option to disclose those numbers if they chose.
Trousdale County also has a virtual option, which Satterfield last week said had around 215 students signed up. A Virtual School handbook was also released Monday and is available at tcschools.org.
In addition, the state is making supplemental education resources available to parents who choose a virtual school option. Those include:
• Early Literacy Resource: A free resource for students pre-K through second grade to build foundational skills and support early literacy;
• PBS Learning Series: Complete lessons for grade 1-9 students in both math and ELA taught by Tennessee teachers;
• STE(A)M Resource Hub: Three challenges per week to spark creative thinking, design, and career exploration from the home; and
• Start of the Year Checkpoint: A free and optional assessment to measure student performance at the beginning of the year and help inform educators about student readiness for the year ahead.