KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Kingsport Board of Education voted Monday night to continue with its original school reopening plan.

That original plan states that all face-to-face students will start the year with virtual instruction on Monday until further notice.

Students who have previously selected Remote Choice Learning 2020 will remain virtual, as planned.  

The decision was made in a 3-2 vote. 

Board members discussed for over two hours which option would be best.

The board considered three options: stay with the original plan, use a staggered phase-in approach, or reopen schools 100 percent in-person on Monday.

“The stipulations that we have right now is that if we were to come into schools in red, I’d have to be able to guarantee 6-feet spacing for all students and our classrooms, I cannot guarantee 6-feet spacing currently,” Kingsport City Schools Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse.

This means students will begin the school year with virtual instruction on Monday, Aug. 10.

Board Members Todd Golden and Julie Byers voted against the measure.

“If they don’t have the ability to log in while their parents are at work, they’re just going to fall behind,” said Golden.

Board Member Eric Hyche supported starting the academic year online, saying that Kingsport City Schools learned a great deal after going remote for the last few weeks of school during the previous school year.

“Virtual school is not the same as no school, virtual school is still school. I think we can all agree, it’s not as effective, it’s not what we want – it’s not as effective as being face-to-face – but it’s still school,” Hyche said.

If data indicates a decrease from substantial spread to minimal-to-moderate spread, face-to-face students will return to school for in-person instruction.  Board members expressed a desire to review data and current status information at the September Board meeting.  All Board members and Dr. Moorhouse expressed the ultimate desire to return students to in-person instruction while maintaining the safest possible environment for students and staff. 

Moorhouse said more information about when and where computer devices can be picked up will be released “immediately.”

KCS will continue to evaluate as more information emerges. This will include analysis of other communities where reentry is being accomplished effectively in spite of substantial spread.