Kingsport mother calls on school system to change COVID-19 strategy

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Kingsport City Schools added 25 new student cases and three new staff cases to its COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday. That brings the total for the week so far to 109 student cases and 13 staff cases.

The high caseload comes as new cases across Northeast Tennessee hit their highest peak since mid-January.

Amy Collette is a mother of three. Two of her daughters attend 2nd and 4th grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Kingsport. Jefferson Elementary was one of the largest hotspots on the Kingsport schools dashboard.

Thirty-one new cases were recorded among students and staff through Thursday this week. Collette said her 2nd grader tested positive Thursday.

“By Tuesday, we knew eight kids that had tested positive,” Collette said. “It felt like it was circling us.”

Kingsport students and staff are not required to wear masks. Assistant Superintendent Andy True said the district plans to keep its current mask recommendation.

None of her children are able to be vaccinated. Collette said her other two children displayed some symptoms and will be tested Friday.

Collette says this school year has been more difficult as a parent because schools are using fewer mitigation requirements.

“It’s really scary to send your kids. It kind of feels like the lion’s den every day,” Collette said. “Hopefully they’re going to be okay.”

Collette believed her daughter was exposed to COVID-19 at school because school is the only place they could be exposed. Collette and her husband are vaccinated.

She said now is the time for schools to make changes to their COVID-19 policies. Collette said she has asked the school board to implement a masking requirement, but they are not listening.

“It’s not really the time to worry about making people mad. It’s the time to protect our kids and we’re not doing that,” Collette said.

The district currently recommends social distancing when possible, but Collette said her daughter is not distanced outside of the classroom in school. True said distancing is difficult at times due to classroom and school sizes.

True said the district will continue to hope parents and students stay responsible.

“Our staff and our students are working hard to be able to implement those [policies] as best as possible,” True said. “We’re going to continue to monitor the situation in our schools.”

True said any change to district policy would come from the school board. WJHL reached out to several members of the school board. President Jim Welch declined to comment.

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