Elizabethton City Schools: Staggered re-entry for classes, mask requirement depends on community spread

Keeping Schools Safe

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Elizabethton City Schools officials have made changes to the district’s reopening plan next month.

Officials with the school system said the changes have been made due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Carter County over the last two weeks.

The data from the Epi Curve metric gauges the average number of new cases per 100,000 county residents for the last 14 days. According to the school system, this means the ECS Re-entry Plan which is used to form decisions as it pertains to school opening status, has continued to trend upward.

The school system has scheduled Wednesday, August 5 as a workday for teachers. It was originally scheduled as the first half-day for students.

A staggered student re-entry plan has been established to divide the student body alphabetically and will begin Monday, August 10 through Friday, August 14.

A determination will be made on how to proceed with the first full day of instruction, beginning Monday, August 17.

Public Relations Coordinator for Elizabethton City Schools, Nicole Moore, said “Moving forward, school officials will meet every Thursday with health department officials to discuss the impact of the virus on our community and how that impacts our schools. We will rely heavily on the health department’s analysis of community data when making decisions. Each Friday, we will inform our stakeholders of any changes to our calendar for the following week.”

“It allows the teachers one extra day, so it allows them a full week to do any other training that we need to do to prepare for the possibility of distance learning,” Elizabethton City Schools director of schools, Richard VanHuss said. “We’ll bring in 20-percent of the staggered re-entry of the student body each day of those five days from the 10th through the 14th.”

According to the Distance Learning Track Student Handbook, mask requirements are as follows:

Red zone: Schools will shutdown and every student will become a distance learner.
Yellow zone: Students and staff will be required to wear masks in common areas and buses. While in classrooms, students will either wear masks, have a physical barrier to the side of desks, or distance approximately six feet apart.
Green zone: No masks required/masks are optional.

*If either a student has a medical reason that prohibits wearing a mask at required times, parents/guardians are asked to contact the child’s school.

The zones are calculated based on community spread of COVID-19.

“The health department guidance, and that’s from the Tennessee Department of Health, is they discourage entire district closings. They are encouraging us to look at cases within the schools and maybe close down classrooms or maybe schools, rather than shutting down the entire district,” Van Huss told Pheben Kassahun.

Students and teachers will receive temperature checks before entering the building each day.

“We also have a bank of fill-in nurses that we will pull in from time to time as needed. We also have a system-wide RN who will also be able to bounce back and forth between schools as needed,” VanHuss said.

If a school or district does shutdown, VanHuss said there is enough resources for each of its 2500 students to have needed materials.

“We have about 1500 Chromebooks across the district,” VanHuss said. “We also have an additional 1500 Chromebooks that are ordered that have not been delivered yet, so once those are delivered, our plan is to go one-to-one across.”

Shifting the start date gives the school system the best opportunity to safely re-open for Traditional Learning Track students, according to the school system.

Ahead of the start date, families are asked to complete an online application to select their choice of either Traditional Learning or Distance Learning. This application is due end of the day on Sunday, July 26, 2020.

The state of Tennessee requires class sizes for the Distance Learning Track to require families to choose a 9-week option (Grades K-5) or an 18-week option (Grades 6-12).

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