The Sumner County Board of Education has approved changes to the district’s reopening plan that will allow younger children to attend school five days a week.
At the board’s July 21 meeting, members unanimously voted to support an updated version of the pathway to re-entry plan.
Under the changes, all students will still begin the phased-in hybrid schedule on Aug. 3. Students will go to school either Monday and Thursday or on Tuesday and Friday, depending on their last name. On the other three days, they will learn at home with online lessons via Sumner Connect.
Beginning on Aug. 17, students in pre-K, in grades K-5 and comprehensive development class students in K-12 will be able to attend in-person classes five days a week. That schedule is subject to change depending on the spread of COVID-19 in Sumner County.
“(This) gives our principals and teachers an opportunity to set up routines, get students back acclimated that are going back to campus, and I think gives us our best shot to be successful,” Sumner County Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Other changes to the previously-released plan include requiring face coverings for all visitors to school campuses, changing a 72-hour monitoring recommendation to encourage a 14-day quarantine and making face shields available for K-5, special education, speech language and deaf education teachers.
The district also extended its registration deadline for Sumner Virtual until July 26. Students may sign up for Sumner Virtual, which will be an entirely online curriculum. Students in K-8 who sign up for Sumner Virtual must commit to a nine-week course, while high-school students must commit for an entire semester.
The district also released the results of a survey of teachers regarding returning to school. Of 1,303 Sumner teachers who responded, 54.2% were either comfortable or very comfortable about returning in a regular, in-person setting. Additionally, 29.2% said that they were uncomfortable, while 16.6% said they were very uncomfortable.
Parents were also surveyed, with 67% of the nearly 7,300 respondents saying the district’s plans meet or mostly meet their family’s educational needs.
“We were encouraged that yes and mostly was 67%,” Phillips said. “Obviously, that’s not as high as you would want it, but with all the changes … we felt good about that.”
District 10 board member Glen Gregory added, “When you get two-thirds believing in something, as large and as diversified as our county is, that’s pretty good. As for the mask situation, there are ways to make mask incentives to adults and students will want to wear them.”
There will not be a mask mandate for students, but masks are strongly encouraged to be worn. Sumner County’s current mask mandate issued by Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt is currently set to expire on Aug. 3. The district has said it will comply if the order is extended beyond that date.
“Requiring masks … I just don’t think that’s the way to get a high level of response,” Phillips said. “I just don’t feel like that’s the right thing to do.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or email@example.com.