Sullivan County Schools to switch to hybrid plan Aug. 24

Keeping Schools Safe

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — After a lengthy meeting that lasted longer than two hours, the Sullivan County Board of Education approved moving to a hybrid instructional plan later this month in a 4-3 vote.

The meeting had been postponed twice as the board awaited more guidance from the state and was riddled with audio issues and interrupted video.

“You only have to look at this meeting that we’re having now to see how much difficulties there are with technology,” said board chair, Michael Hughes who voted no on the hybrid plan because he wanted to see students back in school.

Others were also determined to to return students to the classroom.

“The grocery stores are open, the Wal-Marts are open, the restaurants are open,” said board member Mark Ireson. “It’s hard to sit back and say that the education of our kids is not as important as us going out to eat.”

Classes will continue to be held virtually until Aug. 24, when students will be allowed to return to school part-time with half attending in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday and the other half on Thursday and Friday.

Classes on Wednesday will be virtual-only. Sullivan County Schools started the school year on Monday with virtual instruction.

“I’m good with the face to face, I personally like the hybrid but I don’t see how we can ask our teachers to do this in a week,” said board member Paul Robinson.

Earlier this summer, the board voted to use a popular color coded model which factors Covid-19 numbers and the rate of community spread.

According to that model, Sullivan County is deep in the red zone, meaning students would learn remotely.

“If there is severe community spread of Covid-19 then schools should prepare to operate in a remote environment,” said Randall Gilmore, another board member. “And yet today we’re voting today on re-opening schools despite what we said then.”

County health officials were also in on the meeting. Sullivan County Health Department Director Gary Mayes said that’s the only data officials had to go off of.

“There weren’t any models to go by if you will so this is our approach that we thought would be the safest for the teachers and the students,” Mayes said.

The Board of Education will meet again on Thursday, August 13th at 6:30 pm and will allow for public comment. It has not been decided whether that meeting will be held virtually or in person.

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