Tri-Cities, Tenn. (WJHL) — Several school districts across Northeast Tennessee head back to the classroom Monday morning. School leaders are eager to get back to as normal as possible.
Kingsport City Schools, Bristol, Tennessee City Schools and Washington County, Tennessee students all return to the classroom Monday, Aug. 2. While school leaders are excited to welcome students back, they are still taking precautions for both students and staff.
None of the three districts are requiring masks for the school year, but they are recommending them for those who are not vaccinated. The schools will continue with frequent cleanings, encouraging social distancing when possible and frequent hand washing.
The Sullivan County Regional Health Department will handle cases and contact tracing when positive cases arise for Kingsport City Schools. The school system will also be offering COVID-19 testing with the consent of parents.
Testing for infectious diseases isn’t new to the Kingsport School System. Assistant Superintendent Andy True said the schools each have a nurse on campus who is able to assess students each day for a variety of ailments as well as test for certain infections. True also said they want to take lessons from the past year and a half and use those to prevent other infectious diseases on campus.
“Obviously, we’re going to continue with a lot of those cleaning, those disinfecting protocols we’ve had in place not just for COVID but because it creates a healthier environment,” said True. “We don’t want to just ignore what’s happened over the last year and a half, we want to be able to be informed by that and understand how those learnings can help us have healthier environments as we move forward.”
True said there is a sense of excitement with students and staff returning to the classroom together. He also recognized a lot will need to be done to address difficulties faced in the past year by students.
“I think one of the things that we’ll certainly do as students come back is to be able to assess them and find out where they are, where each individual student is so we can know how to best meet those needs. Obviously, coming out of a year and half that has been unlike any in the past it has created some scenarios that we need to address, we’ll address with individual students and student groups,” said True.
That is something Dr. Annette Tudor, Director of Schools Bristol Tennessee City Schools said their district also intends to address. Tudor said they will work with families and students to overcome whatever hurdles and challenges they had over the course of last year.
Dr. Tudor said while they are still taking steps to reduce exposures within the building, guests will be limited on campus during school hours. However, visitors will be allowed after school for activities such as PTA events and sporting events, especially those that are outside.
Tudor emphasized they will keep an eye on cases as the school year progresses.
“We recognize cases in our area are starting to creep back up a little bit, and we just want to be cognizant of that as we start the school year to just limit exposure from outside folks until we see how things are going to trend,” said Tudor.
Washington County, TN schools are asking parents to screen students before sending them to school. They said anyone showing symptoms at school will be assessed and given guidance from the school nurse and may need evaluation or testing before they can return to school. Anyone sent home by the school nurse will be excused.
Washington County Schools will also be requiring anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to stay home from school for 10 days, and anyone who lives in the home with that person should do the same. Any non-vaccinated person who is exposed to a positive case but doesn’t live with them will be asked to monitor their symptoms for 10 days and asked to stay home if they show any.