The 2021-22 school year will kick off looking much like most any other school year, with five-day-per-week, in-person classes.
The Trousdale County School Board unanimously accepted that recommendation during its April 15 meeting.
“The current plan is to return to school, all students,” said board chairman Johnny Kerr. “There would be no more virtual school. We would expect all students to come every day unless illness kept them out.”
Kerr noted that the state legislature currently is not providing virtual options for small school districts but that the district would keep an eye on potential legislation.
“We have discussed a virtual option; we’ve just got to figure out if it’s something we can make work,” added board member Jason Sullivan.
“,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.
Satterfield added that under the returning plan, all Trousdale County students would have their own Chromebook laptop and that all assignments would be done online. This would be part of a two-phase blended learning model that will be utilized. If a student has to be quarantined, they would still be able to keep up with their lessons.
All students in grades 3-12 already have Chromebooks, and the School Board voted Thursday to use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money received last year (ESSER 2.0) to purchase computers for K-2 students, at a cost of $129,850 for 350 Chromebooks. The school system also plans to use ESSER 2.0 money to upgrade WiFi capability at all three schools and expand Internet access into the K-2 wing of Trousdale Elementary.
“All assignments will be in Google Classroom. Even though we are not on a hybrid, there will be closures. It may be a school closure or for a student if they’re sick,” Satterfield said.
“One of the great things we’re going to learn from COVID is that we can still be connected with our students regardless of if their learning space is in a brick-and-mortar building or somewhere else.”
The School Board will wait until July to decide whether masks will be mandated for students, in order to base its decision off the most recent available data on COVID-19 cases.
Under the hybrid model used this year, students have to wear masks when entering or exiting the building or in the halls. Masks have not been required in the classroom because social distancing can be maintained. Once all students are in the classroom together, social distancing will be impossible.
“Parents do need to know how we’re going to reopen and make plans. I think our parents would appreciate if we put our plan out as early as possible,” Satterfield added.
“I agree, there’s no use addressing masks at this time,” Kerr said. “We would just be guessing now anyway.”
Using federal money
The School Board also approved plans for using approximately $2.156 million in federal funds being received under the American Rescue Plan, or ESSER 3.0.
“We’re really excited about the programming associated with those funds,” Satterfield said. “We’re going to hire additional teacher to do math intervention with selected students during the school day. For students who are lacking because of learning loss, they will have extra opportunities to catch up over the next two years.”
The district plans to hire high-impact math tutors for fifth, seventh and ninth grade over the next two years. The district will also update its curriculum “to make sure our students get the most advanced curriculum in their hands,” Satterfield said.
Trousdale County Schools will also cover dual enrollment costs for all high school students for two years, to enable them to get four classes.
“All of our high school students will have an opportunity to have 12 transcripted hours, which is worth a semester (of college),” Satterfield added.
The district will also use ESSER 3.0 funds to offer a $1,000 attendance stipend to teachers who miss 10 days or less. Satterfield said he saw this as a way to motivate staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take measures when outside the classroom to prevent exposure.
Satterfield said the balance of the federal money would be used for professional development of teachers.
The state will have to approve the district’s ESSER 3.0 funding plan before any money can be spent.
Satterfield said he felt the district’s ESSER plan fell in line with expectations released by Gov. Lee last week. The governor urged Tennessee school districts to ensure federal education funding goes directly toward student achievement. Tennessee has received nearly $4.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief stimulus funding allocated specifically for K-12 education.
“We want to really invest with our leaders and our teachers and bring them high-quality professional development,” Satterfield said. “There’s a lot of work to do in how to engage students in remote settings. We hear that students are not motivated, but maybe our instructional practices should be more engaging.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or email@example.com.