Trousdale County’s School Board heard concerns from a number of parents about the district’s plans for reopening schools during their meeting last week.
Board members moved their meeting to the high school auditorium to allow people the opportunity to ask questions about how school will look when they open on July 30.
Asked about reexamining the reopening plan, Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said, “We are constantly reevaluating whatever we do. We are constantly in touch with (the Health Department) and medical people… Regardless of which plan we are in, we are going to be making decisions based on our staff and student illnesses.”
Ultimately, the board rejected 3-2 a motion to open school five days a week, opting instead to stay with the blended model that will use both in-class lessons and distance learning options.
Denice Jackson motioned to return to a regular school schedule and was joined by Anthony Crook, while Johnny Kerr, Mary Helen McGowan and Chairman Regina Waller voted against the motion.
“I have spoken with several people — parents, grandparents — and they have recommended these children get back into school. It’s hurting them not being able to socialize every day...” Jackson said prior to the vote.
“It’s hard to go against a popular opinion… but our ultimate goal is the safety of our students and our staff. That’s what we have to base our decision on,” Waller said.
In response to a parent’s question, Satterfield said it was not his place to judge what other school districts are doing. Sumner County announced a similar blended model on July 14, Macon and Wilson counties are planning to go back full time with an online-only option and Smith is currently planning a staggered full-time opening of schools with a virtual option.
“The issue is, if we don’t play this thing smart, we’re going to be right back where we were in the spring and that’s not good for kids,” Satterfield said.
The blended plan will have students in school on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, depending on their last name. On days they are not in school, students will be learning at home with lessons either via Chromebook or paper & pencil for younger grades.
Parents of students in grades K-5 may apply to also have their children in school on Wednesdays. Asked how many students could use the Wednesday option, Satterfield said the district had planned for around 300. As of Monday, there were 144 applications. Parents may apply on the district website at tcschools.org.
Students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) may also send their children to school on Wednesdays regardless of grade.
Chromebooks will be provided to middle and high school students on their first day of school, whether July 30 or 31. Parents must agree to the district’s “responsible use” policy, taking responsibility should the computer be damaged or lost. That form is also available at tcschools.org. Students may also use their own laptops if they have one.
Elementary students in grades 3-5 will be able to receive Chromebooks at a later date.
“We are still waiting for those Chromebooks to be delivered. Once we receive them, we will provide adequate time for teachers and students to practice before we send Chomebooks home by students,” Satterfield told The Vidette by email.
Students will be able to download assignments for at-home learning on days they are at school and will be able to use the computers to do those assignments even if they do not have Internet access at home.
“It’s not a day where you have to be the teacher,” Satterfield said. “We’re working with teachers to find the necessary things that cannot be taught at home and prioritizing instruction to be sure those are done face to face.”
Trousdale County Schools is also providing a virtual option that will completely utilize online lessons. Satterfield told The Vidette 215 applications for virtual school had been filed with the district office.
With regards to meals, Coordinated School Health Supervisor Kathy Atwood said students would be able to take home meals for the next day when they are at school.
“If they come on Monday, they’ll have food to take home for Tuesday,” she said.
Principals take questions
All three principals — Teresa Dickerson, J. Brim McCall and Demetrice Badru — spoke on how procedures would go at their respective schools and also took questions from the audience of around 50 people.
The three principals also praised the efforts of teachers in working to prepare for online and in-person education.
Masks will be required via board policy at all three schools when riding a school bus, when entering or exiting the building and during classroom transitions. Masks will not be required while students are in classrooms, as desks will be arranged to maintain social distancing.
Parents will be responsible for providing a mask for their children, but the district’s website states “a washable protective face covering will be provided once to any student who does not have a protective face covering.”
Students not wearing masks will be subject to discipline under board policy, up to and including expulsion for repeated and willful offenses.
“If someone decided they weren’t going to wear a mask and blatantly wasn’t wearing one, it could get to that,” Satterfield said in response to a parent’s question.
Attendance will be taken for at-home learning days. Students will be able to check in via Google Classroom or email or for those without Internet access, by showing completed assignments.
“The attendance will lag a bit to make sure we are in contact with every student,”
Dickerson said students would not be able to use lockers at the high school and meals would be served in the classroom to students. TCHS students will have to answer health-screening questions each morning.
New material will be taught on days students are at school, with at-home work designed to reinforce those lessons.
“The majority of instruction will be at school… We don’t expect you to teach your kids. You’ve got to let our teachers do that,” Dickerson said.
At the middle school, McCall said meals would also be in classrooms and lockers would not be used. Students will be allowed to bring backpacks, which will be a change from recent years.
“In terms of instruction this summer, our focus has been Google Classroom and trying to integrate those aspects into our instruction,” he said. “We will make sure our students have access to instruction that will help them even if they don’t have Internet.”
McCall said the school would be in touch with incoming sixth-graders to set up an orientation process.
Badru said the elementary school would focus on building “foundational skills” such as reading, writing and math, especially in the younger grades. Extra lessons in English and Language Arts will be taught on in-school days and read-aloud lessons will be posted on the school’s website for parents and students to use if they wish.
Work-at-home lessons will focus on science and social studies, and practicing those foundational skills. Grades K-2 will be able to take work home to be done with paper and pencil.
“It is super important that they have those foundational skills. We’re going to do it,” Badru said. “When they are learning at home, it will be practice. The hard work is taken off the parents and our teachers are doing it face to face.”
A kindergarten orientation is being planned, Badru said, but plans were not available as to how that would work. Parents will be notified, she added.
Temperature checks will be conducted daily for elementary students when they enter the classroom.
“We know that will take a little time, but that was easier than asking health questions to young kids,” Badru said.
Satterfield also addressed busing, saying, “We’re going to run those bus routes… We’ll give you an estimated time of arrival… After a few weeks, we’ll know who all’s riding and be able to get into a routine.”
The bus routes will be published online, and Satterfield said parents could call the district office at 615-374-2193.
“We can work together to get our kids in school, keep them healthy, and keep them in school where they can get a quality education,” Satterfield said. “That’s what we’re all about here.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory @hartsvillevidette.com.