Kingsport City Schools embraces return to in-person learning five days a week

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Kingsport City Schools returned to a five-day, in-person learning schedule this week. Despite having to follow strict protocols, school officials believe the upsides of having students back face-to-face are worth it.

At Robinson Middle School, around 200 of its students have still elected to learn remotely. But for the other 800 students back in classrooms, there’s plenty of new rules to follow.

KCS’ current COVID-19 visitation policy doesn’t allow parents or visitors inside while students are in the building. News Channel 11’s cameras were also not allowed beyond the school entrance while classes were in session. But go in after hours, and you’ll see the signs of what it takes to make full in-person learning happen. This includes lockers zip-tied shut, water fountains taped over, and designated stairwells for different grades.

Students are instructed use water bottles, rather than fountains

“Students walk one way in the hallways, so you would see arrows and signs. We have hand sanitizer stations all over the building,” said Robinson Middle School Principal Dr. Corey Gardenhour.

Gardenhour says students are responsive to rules like mask-wearing.

“They’re doing a really good job. I think that they are all socially-conscious about trying to take care of each other,” he said.

Bitmoji-covered posters are hung up around the school, reminding students of rules

Students don’t have lunch together in the cafeteria either. Instead, they get grab-and-go lunches to take back to classrooms to eat. They’re also trying to space students out at desks.

“We’re trying to do the best we can. We have a certain amount of space and certain number of kids. But just by the nature of the fact that we have less kids in the building, that’s made it easier,” said Gardenhour.

Thermometers sit at the school entrance

Despite the challenges, it’s worth it for KCS Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse, who calls face-to-face instruction the ‘gold standard’ for learning.

“It’s just been really good to get back to doing what we were created to do, which was to teach kids face to face,” said Moorhouse. “And to be side by side with them instead of in front of them with a screen.”

Gardenhour said being back in the building has been just as good for faculty as it has for students.

“I think it’s been great for our opportunities for students who have mental health needs and physical needs. We’ve been able to take care of those very easily. So it’s been wonderful in that respect,” he said.

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