Trousdale County Schools will remain on the hybrid learning model for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

The School Board made that decision by a 4-1 vote at its March 11 meeting after hearing from parents and teachers via a survey earlier in the month.

“From the beginning, I was 100% wanting them in school and being mask optional,” said board member Jason Sullivan. “Fast forward to now, I’ve only had one person say to me they felt kids need to be in school immediately… I feel like we’re getting close enough to the end of the school year that I think we need to finish this year out and try to start fresh in the next school year.”

The survey was sent to parents of K-8 students by text on March 1. Of 429 respondents, 58.5% favored reopening four days per week after spring break. Under the reopening scenario, Wednesdays would have remained a “learn at home” day to allow for virtual students to come to school to take standardized testing.

Teachers felt completely the opposite in their own survey, with 47 of 60 respondents (78.3%) selecting the option to keep the hybrid model in place.

“We’ve only got six weeks. This is one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to face,” added board member Barbara Towns. “It’s going to be a big challenge getting these kids acclimated to all being in the same room… I think kids want to go back but I feel like it might disrupt things worse…”

Board chairman Johnny Kerr spoke in favor of returning to full-time, in-person classes, saying, “We requested this survey to find out what the parents of Trousdale County wanted. Almost 60% voted for that… I just think it’s time to go back to school.”

Kerr cast the lone vote in favor of returning to school.

With regards to the upcoming school year, Kerr said those discussions would likely begin in May or June.

“It’s a little premature at this point. By May or June, we’re going to have to look at that to give everyone the opportunity to be prepared for next year,” he said.

The School Board also began discussions on the budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“What I’m proposing is a status quo budget with no new programs and no new positions,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield. “We do anticipate a raise for our teachers and I would like to propose a 3% raise for our non-certified, contingent on County Commission funding.”

Budget hearings with the county have not yet been scheduled. County Mayor Stephen Chambers has previously said he hoped to have those in late March or early April.

Satterfield acknowledged that the school system would receive additional funding from the new federal stimulus bill but that an exact figure was not yet known.

“More money is on its way. ESSER 3 will be just like ESSER 2, it has regulations on what it can and can not be used for,” he said. “ESSER 2, we got $900,000. We expect to get more than that this time. But 20% must be spent to address learning loss outside the school day.”

Previous stimulus money has been used in upgrading the district’s online infrastructure to make virtual learning easier. Funding has also gone toward replacing windows, installing water filling stations and adding electronic hand dryers in bathrooms. All are designed to address COVID-19 needs and fall under proper uses of the ESSER funds.

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

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