Keeping schools open during a pandemic remains an ongoing challenge, member of Trousdale County’s School Board heard during last week’s meeting.

Principals at each of the county’s three schools spoke on the challenges they faced, especially as the number of students increases as well.

Overall Trousdale County has 127 more students than at this time last year, according to Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.

As of the Aug. 19 meeting, elementary school enrollment was just over 700 including pre-K, the middle school was at 322 students and the high school was at 420 students.

“Our goal has always been, and will continue to be, keeping schools open for in-person learning,” Satterfield said. “We’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”

The need to keep schools open is even more important this year because there is no exemption for a COVID-relate closure from the 180-day requirement. Trousdale County has 10 “snow days” built into the calendar and any closures past that would have to be made up at the end of the school year. Too many closures could interfere with scheduling for the Summer Learning Camps mandated by the state legislature, Satterfield added.

“It’s imperative that everyone try to play their part in keeping school open, and the main thing is keeping sick kids home,” he said. “If you’re a parent and you don’t know if you should send your kid to school, call the nurse and consult to make a decision about what to do for your student.”

Keeping staff healthy is vital to keeping schools open, Satterfield noted, especially with a current lack of substitute teachers available. In some cases, principals have had to fill in for teacher absences.

“I’m trying to be as creative as I can,” TCES Principal Demetrice Badru said of the situation at her school.

Among those “creative” measures are using the little gymnasium as a makeshift classroom when necessary, she added.

The schools have also taken measures to limit any potential COVID exposure, such as replacing all water fountains with filling stations for water bottles, installing electric hand dryers in all restrooms and having students change classes in groups.

“If we can keep them in cohorts, if one kid gets sick we might (quarantine) that cohort but the whole school does not,” Satterfield said.

All three principals noted that students seemed excited to be back in school full time this year, and also praised the adaptability of teachers to utilizing available technology to reach students.

“If a students is sent home, our teachers are making videos every day. They have Chromebooks… Everything is right there in Google Classroom so (students) can keep learning,” JSMS Principal J. Brim McCall said.

“Every classroom I go in, sometimes I hear them answering questions from the Chromebook,” TCHS Principal Teresa Dickerson said of students participating virtually while quarantined.

The board voted to approve the district’s plan for roughly $2.1 million in federal COVID relief funds (ESSER 3.0).

The budget for those funds include two years of high-impact math tutoring, improvements to the schools’ curriculum, improving professional development opportunities, expanding dual enrollment opportunities and sustaining academic supports available to students.

“It addresses student learning, learning acceleration. It’s $2.1 million focused on students,” Satterfield said.

Board members also approved by a 4-1 vote the beginning of dismissal procedures against a high school teacher. Jason Sullivan cast the lone “no” vote.

The memo, obtained by The Vidette, cites charges of insubordination and neglect of duty. The teacher in question allegedly refused to perform assigned coaching duties, and also allegedly broke COVID protocol by returning to work before a quarantine period had ended and refusing to wear a mask after being instructed to do so.

“This pattern of refusal to respect the assignments and directives given… represent not only insubordination, but also neglect of duty in that (the teacher) has failed to perform duties and responsibilities that reasonably can be expected of any teacher,” the memo states in part.

The teacher has 30 days to request a hearing before an impartial arbitrator, who would decide if the charges warrant termination of employment.

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

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