WASHINGTON CO., Tenn. (WJHL) — Schools across the region are back in full swing but so is COVID-19. Washington County, Johnson City, and Kingsport City Schools have been back for a few weeks without any protocols for the virus.
The current surge seen across the region isn’t having a significant impact in those districts but they are monitoring numbers as students and parents report them.
“If we see a big uptick in COVID cases or illnesses especially leading to absence of staff and students, we’ll have to look at everything and evaluate and make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and our employees,” said Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett. “We are seeing some COVID in our schools, I talked to one principal [at Mountainview Elementary] and she said she did have to cover a class because she had a few teachers out at one time.”
Right now, Johnson City Schools has a 97% attendance rate. Only half of those out are due to COVID.
Washington County Schools’ attendance rate is about the same. 6% of their students are out and only 1.5% of those are identified as being due to COVID. 3% of their staff was out on Tuesday with half being due to COVID.
“Prior to COVID when we had those surges with flu, it always would heighten our efforts in monitoring and reminding folks of good practices to avoid getting any kind of communicable disease,” said Washington County Schools Superintendent Jerry Boyd.
Districts aren’t required to have dashboards this year and positive cases are self-reported.
“We take the data as we get it and we use it to be beneficial to our process but we certainly will continue that internally and if it gets to the point where it gets elevated we’ll return to the same process we had previously,” Boyd said. “Right now our concern is because the data is self-reported, putting something out there beyond internal for our own monitoring purposes, we’re just not confident how accurate that is.”
Kingsport City Schools says it takes a hit when people are out in the smaller departments.
“When we have two or three individuals out in a cafeteria that makes a significant difference. When we have two or three bus drivers out because they might be ill, you’re dealing with a smaller amount of total bus drivers so that has more of an impact,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andy True. “Our transportation department is really leaning on each other to be able to cover routes, double up, obviously there could be some impact on our kids as well as far as the timeliness when it comes to getting to and from school.”
The district is working on getting more substitutes so staffing isn’t impacted as much.
“We’re making some changes this year when it comes to for instance increasing substitute pay…trying to make that more attractive for folks to come in and work with us…working with our substitute staffing company as well so that we can continue to have a good relationship there and have as deep of a pool if we have absences,” True explained.
All three districts re-iterated the importance of keeping your child at home if they are sick and that they are always willing to work with families and doctors for what’s best for the student.