ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — Unicoi and Hawkins County School students only have a few more days to enjoy summer since they head back to the classroom Monday, Aug. 9. Both school districts will begin with abbreviated first days before their first full day on Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Neither school district is starting off with mask requirements or recommendations, but they say anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they choose.
In Hawkins County Schools, school director Matt Hixson says they are dealing with COVID-19 as cases specifically relate to students and classrooms, but they have no plans to perform contact tracing this year.
In Unicoi County Schools, the district is asking parents to monitor their children’s health and say public health officials will do their contact tracing. UCS will have assigned seating on buses and will continue with frequent sanitation of classrooms and furniture, among other changes.
“Some spacing things; when kids would report to school before COVID, they’d all go to the gym, so you may have 600 kids in the gym at one time, and we didn’t think a lot about that. In the end, due to spacing, we revamped that at all our locations,” said John English Director of Schools Unicoi County. “Those are the types of things that we don’t really feel like are negatively impactful to kids that we can keep in place. Water bottle filling stations instead of water fountains.”
In Hawkins County, they want to focus on looking ahead and filling in the learning gaps created by the last year and a half.
“We’re setting the bar high. We’re aiming a lot of academic support toward our principals and teachers,” said Hixon. “So we’re looking at a lot of support back in the classroom, a lot of consistent data analysis and instructional changes due to that data analysis.”
The biggest change at Hawkins County Schools parents may notice is the visitor policy. They will not be allowing unscheduled visitors on campus for the time being but will work on scheduling visitors on an as-needed basis.
Both Hixson and English are eager to have students and teachers back in the classroom and interact in person in a way they feel is vital to the learning process.