JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tuesday night, the Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education debated on what to do as case numbers and quarantine counts rise. In the end, they decided to hold off on a decision until next week.
“There will be at least two schools I estimate will have to be shut down Thursday and Friday…and I expect the support of nine board members,” said Director of Schools Dr. Bill Flanary. “If you give me the authority to shut it down please give me a threshold. Don’t just let me make the entire decision for the school system. We have a school board for a reason.”
During the meeting, Dr. Flanary wouldn’t say which schools should expect to be virtual by the end of the week but did say 974 students, faculty, and staff members were in quarantine or isolation. The system has 53 positive cases. In all, the system is having to exclude about 16 people per positive case.
“A majority of the ones that we are excluding because of the school-related exposure to a positive case, most of them are asymptomatic,” said Kelly Wagner, the district’s Director of Coordinated School Health.
Some board members said something has to change. The system is in the third week of students being back in classrooms at 100% capacity four days a week with Wednesdays being completely virtual.
“We had a plan, to begin with, we threw the plan out the window and we didn’t replace the plan. The unknown is what’s killing our teachers,” said board member Annette Buchanan, who dialed in virtually.
The board going back and forth for about two and a half hours over what to do.
“Look at the ball game Friday night, look at Annette’s [family’s] corn maze,” said former board chair Keith Irvin. “My God, people [are] piled in on top of each other…I just can’t see that our school system is the biggest problem of it.”
This meeting falls after the county’s biggest rivalry football game, the Musket Bowl, took place this past Friday night. The system now struggling to find substitutes and drivers to cover bus routes.
“You can’t reproduce those folks, we don’t have enough to reproduce and our budget won’t hold enough extra people just in case something happens,” said board member Chad Fleenor.
Since Tuesday’s meeting was set to review policy, there will be a special called meeting to discuss the next steps. That meeting will take place Tuesday, November 3rd at 5 p.m. on the same day as the election.
Until then, Doctor Flanary said he will be meeting with administrators and his senior supervisory staff to discuss which schools or grades may close later in the week.