Washington Co., Tenn. BOE votes to stay ‘virtual until January 8’

Keeping Schools Safe

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Members of the Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education voted Monday night to continue with ‘full virtual learning’ until January 8. The BOE voted 7-2 to keep schools closed, with the board chairman citing the need for consistency as a main reason behind the decision.

In Washington County Schools, 21 students and faculty are currently COVID-19 confirmed. This is out of 9,400 people, according to Director of Schools Dr. Bill Flanary.

The BOE will now meet on January 4th to evaluate their learning model once again.

Earlier in November, the board voted to stick with virtual learning until November 30.

In late October, nearly a thousand of the system’s students, faculty, and staff members were in quarantine or isolation. That number has dropped drastically since – now at 271.

BOE Chairman Jason Day told News Channel 11 while the quarantine numbers are down, they’re still seeing cases even without full-capacity learning.

“We’re afraid if we get back in immediately, then within just a few weeks, we’ll be right back out,” said Day.

Several people at the meeting echoed the need for consistency when choosing between in-person and virtual learning. Board member Annette Buchanan said more planning, such as introducing plastic barriers, is needed to at least allow pre-K through third graders to return to schools.

“Instead of just flying by the seat of our pants, it’s time to make a plan to do so we can get them back in,” said Buchanan.

Daniel Boone senior Caleb Anderson is a student representative for the board. He surveyed nearly 500 of his classmates in recent days and found around 75% were willing to return to in-person learning. Anderson said it’s imperative students return to classrooms.

“This virus is a part of our lives now. We need to learn to work with it and not live in fear of it,” he said.

Based on the survey responses, Anderson is concerned about student’s mental health and well-being.

“You have domestic violence, child abuse situations that are arising due to this quarantine situation, there’s not really a means of escape for these kids. They need to get back into in-person learning, it’s going to be the best for everybody,” he said.

Day said part of the issue in allowing students to return is unclear CDC guidance on when quarantining is and isn’t necessary. He said this makes it difficult to keep staff in schools.

“Until there’s a different way to do that, we’re having to put too many people off that should be there teaching,” said Day.

You can watch the entire Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education meeting on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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