BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — On Friday, Sullivan County Schools Director Dr. David Cox sent a letter to county students and parents about the school district’s reopening plans.
He also released a draft of its operating procedures for how to reopen schools safely amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and said that the Sullivan County Board of Education will hold a virtual called meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday to consider the draft for approval.
In the letter, Cox said that the school system’s current plan is to begin instruction on Wednesday.
“Students whose parents have been accepted into our Virtual Learning Academy have been notified,” Cox said. “All other students will begin virtually on August 5 and will continue through August 14.”
Cox said that the school system’s leaders and board are hoping to shift to in-person teaching within school buildings “as soon as we are able to do so safely and responsibly,” and they hope to be able to do that “in some form” on Monday, Aug. 17.
Cox said that per Mayor Richard Venable’s order, masks are mandatory for students and school staff. The bigger challenge, he said, will likely be sticking to the recommended 6 feet of distance between all students and staff in schools. But Cox said that social distancing is “critical” because of quarantine requirements.
“When a student tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing takes place and any other student who is found to have been in contact with the diagnosed positive student (in closer proximity than six feet for 10 minutes or more) must quarantine at home for 14 days,” Cox explained in the letter.
“We are working very hard to provide for planned physical distancing in a variety of ways so that we can get students back in buildings safely,” he said.
Cox also said that county school officials have been working with “all Northeast Tennessee school districts” since the start of the pandemic on safe operating guidelines for extracurricular activities.
He said that non-contact sports — golf, cross country and volleyball, for example — are allowed to proceed with their practices and contests, and bands can practice “with distancing protocols.”
On the contact sport front, Cox said nothing definitive, but he did say that Gov. Bill Lee has said he will lift the ban on contact sports.
Cox added that Sullivan County Schools is working with the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association on safety standards. He said the school system will share more details as they’re available.
“I want to ask for your continued support and prayers as we work through issues that will lead to [full-time] attendance in person in our schools and full participation in all school activities,” Cox said. “Information and guidance is changing very rapidly and we will do our best to keep you informed as we have updated information.”
The purpose of the Sullivan County Board of Education’s virtual called meeting Tuesday is for the board to consider approving a draft of the school system’s operating procedures for reopening safely during the pandemic, according to a separate release. Cox said the meeting will be livestreamed on the school board’s YouTube channel, “Sullivan County Tn BOE.”
In the meantime, Cox said, the draft is available for public viewing on the school system’s website at www.sullivank12.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/reopen_final.pdf.
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