KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Schools have faced many challenges to keep up with the changing protocols of the coronavirus. Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn was in the Tri-Cities, Tuesday, to see how schools are adjusting.
News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun spoke with her about the challenges every school system in the state is facing.
Those challenges pointed out today include the lack of ability to social distance in school buildings, and making sure students are ready for state testing.
Commissioner Schwinn described the Kingsport City Schools she visited as “exceptional” and was very impressed with how education is being handled there during COVID.
Schwinn visited Dobyns-Bennet High School and DB-Excel Tuesday to see first-hand how Kingsport City Schools is operating.
“Incredibly strong instruction, very, very engaged students and I would say staff and students who were both very proud of the work that was happening and had every reason to be proud. It was an incredibly impressive visit,” Schwinn told a small group of news outlets following her tour of DB-Excel.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Moorhouse added: “It was a lot of pride today, to be able to see our teachers just again- going above and beyond to do everything that they can to try to mitigate the situations that we’re in but to continue to provide great instructions for our students.”
Social distancing in school buildings has been a concern for parents. Dr. Schwinn said Kingsport City Schools is taking the best approach.
“We are seeing that in both of the schools I was in today; A Day, B Days. We are seeing that in terms of social distancing,” Schwinn said. “In other districts we are seeing kids that are grouped in pretty tightly together. Let’s figure out whether that’s wearing masks, whether there’s a protocol for hand washing, whether that’s partnering with your local health organization on contact tracing.”
Even though quarantine numbers are high in the Tri-Cities, she says this is the perfect example that schools are taking precautionary measures to ensure the virus is not spread.
“Frankly, in Tennessee, we are a national leader in that. We have not seen that taking place in schools because of leadership like we have in this district,” she stated.
The state of Tennessee is planning to have state testing at the end of the year, just so that the state can gage what students learned this year.
“We think that’s really important, especially now, to be able to track progress and to able to know what additional resources and supports will be needed for our students, and we recognize that there needs to be a lot of flexibility with the hard work happening from our teachers, our principals, our school site staff,” Commissioner Schwinn explained.
Many parents have come to News Channel 11 about schools possibly not reporting cases to the state COVID-19 Dashboard. Dr. Schwinn said they are seeing 93% to 95% of districts reporting information every week.