All Washington County, Tenn. Schools to operate on fully virtual schedule October 29-30, parents react

Keeping Schools Safe

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Washington County, Tennessee Schools will be operating on a fully virtual schedule for the rest of the week.

According to an alert from the school system, all schools will be operating virtually from Thursday, October 29 through Friday, October 30.

The decision comes after the school board chose not to make a decision regarding scheduling at their meeting on Tuesday night.

Jordan Chenault is a single father of two. His son is in the third grade at Ridgeview Elementary School. He is disappointed with school administrators for switching classes back to virtual learning.

Chenault’s son and daughter

“The people that work, we have to make special arrangements for our kids to be able to sit behind a computer screen and to stay at home all day long. We have to make sacrifices every day for them to stay at home when they’re supposed to be in school, they’re supposed to be being taught,” Chenault told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “I’m not a teacher, I’m not trained to teach any of the things that he’s learning in third grade, and so it’s much harder for them to stay at home than to be in school where they belong, and not having a plan doesn’t help me with working the hours that I work, so I think it makes it a lot difficult that we’re the only district struggling as much as what we’re struggling, and it’s very uncomforting to me that we have no plan, we have no set plan at all.”

Chenault wants his son to be able to see his friends at school.

“The first day they actually got to go back all week, he was in a better mood all week, he was happier all week, he loves to tell me about all his friends he gets to see and then when he stays at home he sees them on a computer screen for 10-15 minutes, and then that’s it,” he told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

Director of Schools Bill Flanary told News Channel 11 Wednesday that 968 students, staff, and faculty were in isolation or quarantine throughout the school district.

“Daniel Boone High School really took a hit these last few days, 215 quarantined or isolated people at Daniel Boone today, and that’s a chunk, even with a school as big as Daniel Boone, they are our largest school,” Flanary added. “That was a big factor in my decision.”

He added that because of that high number, virtual learning is necessary.

“Mainly because our quarantine rate has gotten so excessively high, we felt like limiting the number of people who come in contact with each other in our buildings was the best way to quickly lower that quarantine rate,” Flanary said. “I believe we have three schools with entire groups that are in quarantine and we were getting close in a couple more, so this move to full virtual was the smart move for us to do.”

Flanary added that school leaders will re-evaluate returning to in-person learning on Friday.

Chenault said he does not think going back to virtual learning is a good idea.

“I’m really upset about it, I tried to write the school board and all the members an email on Monday morning about my concerns about it because I feel like at this point, we’re not thinking about out kids’ mental health and wellbeing, and not only, when they’re doing virtual, they’re not learning everything they could learn in the classroom, they’re not getting the education that they need. It’s been eight months basically, with them outside of school and at some point in time we have to stop running from this. It’s the same as the flu or anything else, they have to be in person,” Chenault said. “We have to care more about their education and their wellbeing instead of just putting them in front of a computer screen and being isolated from everybody.”

The Washington County Board of Education will gather at a special called meeting on Tuesday to discuss moving forward.

Chenault has a message for those board members:

“Please consider what these children are going through when they’re sitting at home and they don’t know when they’re going to go back to see their friends or when they get to go back and be in-person and to think about what they’re doing to them, not only how far they’re setting them behind learning-wise, but how far they’re setting them behind mentally,” he said.

News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais received statements from other Washington County, Tennessee parents who are concerned with schools reverting to virtual-learning:

“We cannot continue to live in fear. Our kids’ education is suffering, and they need to be in the classroom. We do not feel our concerns are being heard or address by Washington County school board members.”

Ashley Barnes

“Our kids spent 7 weeks virtual, 2 weeks on a hybrid schedule (2 days a week in school, 3 virtual), a week off for fall break, then full time in school 4 days a week with Wednesdays virtual for 2.5wks and now we’ve been sent back to virtual for the main set of this week. I believe we will also be virtual on Monday since we are off on Election Day and the school board meets that night. Every parent knows that one of the biggest factors in the success of our children is consistency. Our school board and director seem to have forgotten this. I truly believe this catastrophic failure is due to lack of planning. We ended in-person schooling in mid-March. Since then, the school board should have been planning for all possible scenarios and putting plans in place to make sure that our children’s needs are met. They clearly did not do that. There is a clear lack of planning and even urgency on their part to ensure the success of the children whom they serve. It’s unacceptable. They have informed us that sports and extracurricular activities will continue. They have claimed this is because the governor says it can happen. They close schools, but allow sports?? Where are their priorities? My children’s well being and education are clearly not their focus. I understand that we can’t have school without staff. So where was the plan to allow school to go on when staff gets sick? Did they beef up the number of substitute teachers and support staff over the summer? No, they did not. These are rash decisions that put teachers, students, and parents in difficult positions. My daughter’s teachers found out that school would be virtual the rest of the week in a google classroom meet from a parent. The board can’t even give schools time to plan? This has to stop.”

Kristin Rich Peterson

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