Trousdale County’s School Board rejected a motion to return to in-person classes five days a week after fall break during last Thursday’s meeting.

The motion, which came from newly elected board member Jason Sullivan, died for lack of a second and so no vote took place.

“I am the only one on this board who has a school-aged child. My child going two days a week is extremely hard,” said Jason Sullivan, who was elected to the board in August. “Eight days a month isn’t enough… it’s time to make a move to going back five days a week. I’m ready to try it.”

“We don’t want to lose ground with the kids doing virtual school,” said Barbara Towns, who was also elected in August. “I have five grandchildren in school and they would all be better off if they were in school five days a week. But I’m not sure it can be done in that length of time.”

During the discussion on the motion, board members heard from parents supporting going back five days a week.

“It shouldn’t be as hard for us to get back in school and still be successful,” said Kayla Green, who said her child attends the elementary school. “Smith went hybrid for two weeks and then went back full time… Sumner County went hybrid then in two weeks had K-5 going full time. Now their whole system is full time…”

Green also compared COVID school numbers in those counties as well as Macon and Wilson, and noted that Trousdale’s numbers are even less than any of those.

“One of the biggest reasons you’re having struggles at home right now is you’re asking parents to do a job that a teacher normally would do,” Green said. “A lot of parents are not sitting at home with school-aged kids; they can’t do that.

“I’ve heard across the board from parents of A and B students who are getting Ds and failing now.”

“I am 100% in favor of going back five days a week,” added Chris Sexton. “Two days a week is not going to cut it. Last night, we’re up till 9:30, 9:45 doing homework.”

During the board’s Sept. 15 work session, it was stated that returning to school full time would mean hiring for some positions currently vacant. At that meeting, Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said the intention was to continue with the hybrid model through the end of the fall semester and reevaluate at that time.

Also during the work session, Johnny Kerr brought up the possibility of returning full time after the Thanksgiving break to allow a trial run before the end of semester.

“We have begun preliminary discussions on going back to school full time,” Kerr said during Thursday’s meeting. “Nobody thinks this is the best learning opportunity for our kids, but it’s the best option we had at that time… But we are also responsible for the teachers and we have to take that situation into account.”

Board members voted 3-2 to make masks optional in the classroom whenever full-time classes do resume. Sullivan, Towns and Anthony Crook voted in favor, with Kerr and Regina Waller voting no.

Other moves

The board also approved a resolution in support of removing state accountability in terms of standardized testing. The resolution came at the request of State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who sits on the Education Committee in the state legislature.

“The key component is a moratorium on accountability associated with standardized testing,” Satterfield said. ‘We’re fine with the assessment, but not the accountability.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to hold our teachers accountable when everything has changed so much because of coronavirus,” added Kerr.

Board members also approved a three-year service contract at $2,400 annually for Rackley Roofing to cover Trousdale Elementary.

Satterfield said the average service call cost $1,600 and that a service contract would save the school system money.

The board also unanimously elected Kerr as its chairman for 2020-21, replacing Waller, who was elected unanimously as vice chairman. Anthony Crook was elected as the board’s pro tem member.

“I’m happy to serve, but if someone else wants to be chair I’m ok with it,” Waller said prior to the vote.

Crook and Towns were elected as the board’s representatives to the Tennessee School Board Association.

“It’s such a learning process. TSBA’s a lot of work but it’s a great experience,” Waller said of being liaison. “Everyone will learn lots from those positions.”

New member Jason Sullivan was also chosen to continue as the board’s representative to the County Commission’s Education Committee.

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

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