Tri-Cities school systems discuss remote learning practices in new school year

Back To School

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s a couple of weeks into the school year, and COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising. School officials say virtual learning is not an option, but what does that mean exactly?

“State board passed new rules last spring, and they did some updates in July,” Washington County, TN Director of Schools Jerry Boyd said. “The overall message is that the practices that were available last year to schools, to go in and out of a remote learning or a hybrid-type of learning model, that’s not an option for school districts.”

Boyd said that based on the new rules, the only way that would change is if the governor declares a state of emergency.

On Thursday night, the Washington County, TN school board voted to require masks. Parents can opt-out by filling out a form on the district website.

Director of Schools Jerry Boyd said requiring masks should result in fewer students in quarantine.

“Only the person that’s COVID positive or has multiple symptoms of COVID would be sent home,” Boyd said. “No one else would need to be sent home.”

Boyd said students that are quarantined are still learning at home through online assignments and packets. The exact format depends on their age and class.

Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Rhonda Stringham said school officials are trying to provide a variety of options for quarantined students. According to the Kingsport City Schools dashboard, on Friday there were 31 new cases of COVID-19 in students and staff.

“All of our materials offer both a print and also an online option, so we have that for elementary grades,” Dr. Stringham said. “In middle school and high school, our students are already digital one to one. They all have a Chromebook that they get to take home with them.”

“There’s not a prohibition of using digital tools and resources,” Boyd said. “It’s really the conversation about if you look to last year those school district options of going to a different model completely.”

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