Local reaction to Tenn. Gov. Lee school reopening guidance

Keeping Schools Safe

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Tuesday released guidelines for what he calls the safe reopening of schools.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the Volunteer State, Gov. Lee is not alone in his opinion that the best place for children is in the classroom.

“We’re all for trying to get students back in school. There’s no doubt in our mind that that’s the best form of instruction that’s available at this point, but we also have to balance the health concerns in each community and right now, cases are at an all-time high in Carter County,” Elizabethton Director of Schools Richard VanHuss told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

Gov. Lee’s school reopening plans highlights that kids should be in the classroom.

“I do think that we can lead in a way that will serve our kids well in these unprecedented times and we are encouraged about where we are today in the process of getting our schools back open and getting our kids back in the classroom,” Lee said. “Very important that we rise to the challenge to serve the kids of Tennessee who are also in crisis along with the rest of our population.”

School administrators across Tennessee are going through the governor’s new plan, looking for the best option for their school district.

“A reasonable expectation is there will be positive cases in the schools, that is something that is going to happen, what is important is that we have all of the safety and health protocols in place to ensure that folks have the resources they need,” Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn said at the governor’s press briefing.

One of those resources will be a classroom kit provided to teachers which will contain a full year’s worth of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves and masks.

“I know that he said that there would be a year’s supply, I’m curious to see how that actually plays out over that time period because, again, you think about classrooms, you think about students coming in and out each period in a high school or junior high setting, that’s a lot of cleaning every day, so we’ll see how all that plays out I’m really not familiar with everything that’s going to be in there and the amounts,” VanHuss said.

Elizabethton City Schools last week announced a staggered reopening which will start Aug. 10.

“We’re going to do a staggered re-entry starting Aug. 10th, we’ll bring 20 percent of the students in each day over about five day period – the 10th to the 14th. In our district that means around 500 students a day, spread out over five schools, so numbers are going to be extremely low, they’ll have an opportunity to meet their teacher, get any technology that they may need, receive any training on any of our online platforms that they man need and between now and then, we’ll be making decisions on after that first week, what will school look like in Elizabethton,” VanHuss explained to News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “So, we’ll make an informed decision, again, in constant communication with the health department here in Carter County as well as the regional health department.”

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 at school will be obligated to self-isolate for 10 days and anyone who has come in contact with a positive case will have to quarantine for 14 days.

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