Johnson City BOE moves school start date to Aug. 10, enact mask mandate

Local Coronavirus Coverage

UPDATE: The Johnson City Board of Education has approved moving the school reopening date from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10.

The start of the school year was delayed with unanimous support during Monday night’s meeting.

The vote means both in-person and remote learning will start Aug. 10, something Joe Crabtree, President of Johnson City Education Association, strongly agreed with.

“Just because we need to see those numbers go down a bit, I mean, everyone is getting more and more nervous. The fact that the numbers are rising is also showing a rise in anxiety and fear among our staff who really need to be able to get in their classroom and focus,” Crabtree said.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Steve Barnett said while the school system already released reopening plans, this extra week is still necessary.

“There’s a lot that goes into that and it will also provide our administrators and our staff members quality six days, quality in-person time, working on the plan, making sure that we have every staff member, every family ready,” he said.

Barnett added that a survey of parents in the school district found 87 percent want their kids to return to in-person instruction, and on the first day of applications, 1,000 families already chose the remote learning option.

One parent, Washington County Commissioner and Johnson City School parent Jodi Jones, opted for the remote learning option.

She said that this decision was based on her family’s particular situation, and that other families might be unable to choose that option.

She wrote the following statement on her social media:

The boys will be remote learning until Christmas with the exception of orchestra which they will attend in-person. This was the hardest decision I have made, maybe ever, because there are so many unknowns that pros and cons could not be firmly named and of course my kids’ education is a top concern for me. We love sending our kids to school and, moreover, we believe in it. I have parented my way through many school-based conflicts or problems all the while keeping my kids in there because STAYING IN THE GAME – even when things are not ideal or even when they are hard – is one of the values we want to instill in our kids. So this decision feels very uncomfortable for me. I have no idea what the actual threat of illness is to them, or to us, or to others we might expose if we get COVID. It seems pretty small, although case studies seem to show spread is higher among older children (compared to younger). I lean hard on science in making decisions and the science is so weak right now. That is actually one of the reasons for my choice. We will know more in January. I want to thank the billions of people I called and texted to help me think this through. Everyone is working out a decision for their family and everyone’s considerations are different. I do not think there is a good or right choice. I spoke to a number of JC Schools staff and admin in the process and I have to say, they were all amazing. It’s clear to me that they are working their asses off trying to sort this out. Incredibly professional and caring. Do I wish they had come up with some incredibly innovative scenario that would allow me to send my kids in? Yes, but also, I don’t expect them to. Everyone is just treading water. Everyone. We have not lost sight of the fact that we are incredibly lucky people who are weathering the pandemic relatively well. As soon as we have our plan sorted out, we want to help others who are struggling. Please never hesitate to reach out if you need me.

Jodi Jones

Jones teaches at ETSU and also has a Ph.D. in child clinical  psychology. Her advice to parents making this difficult decision: talk to other parents.

The school board heard from Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Safety Greg Wallace about a mask mandate that will be in effect on all properties.

School Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett on the mask mandate:


Previous Story:

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City Board of Education will discuss delaying the start of the 2020–21 school year at its meeting Monday night.

That’s according to Superintendent Steve Barnett.

Currently, schools are set to reopen Aug. 3.

At Monday night’s meeting, Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Safety Greg Wallace told members of the board there will be a mask mandate when schools reopen.

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