Sullivan Co. COVID-19 cases, community spread will determine three school districts operating plans

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials with three local school districts have issued detailed guidance on how they will approach the upcoming school year amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a 31 page document, school officials said that COVID-19 community spread in Sullivan County will determine what plan the school will operate under.

You can see the school opening recommendation plan in the first graphic below.

At a Wednesday press conference, administrators from all three school districts said they will offer a remote learning option for parents and students who may not feel safe returning to in-person school.

If school were to start this week, the school districts would all start on the green level, according to Dr. Stephen May with the Sullivan County Health Department.

“Encouraging the physical distancing, maintaining six feet. Also masks are encouraged but necessarily mandated,” Dr. May said about the green level.

This green threshold means no to minimal spread of COVID-19 – with a low average of new cases being reported per day in the county.

But if case numbers trend upward, as they have been in the region in recent weeks, schools will operate on a yellow level. This would mean stricter measures. Dr. May said this could mean plexiglass barriers between student desks. Details from the reopening plan suggest one-way traffic flows in hallways, lunch being eaten in classrooms, and daily temperature checks on students if schools have the resources.

“It could potentially be in the yellow, even as we start school,” said Dr. May.

But what happens if a student or teacher gets COVID-19? Dr. May said there will be contact tracing to identify who was within six feet of that person for more than ten minutes with no protection. Those contacts will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“Should a class be closed? Should multiple segments be involved in quarantine? Or should we involve the whole school? It will all depend on the case rate and the contact investigation,” Dr. May said Wednesday.

If there is ‘substantial’ coronavirus spread in Sullivan County, schools will operate on a red level. The plan defines ‘substantial’ as an average case rate of over 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,00 Sullivan County residents over the last 14 days. This is when going back to remote learning will be considered.

“That’s a very serious decision to make. If we get close to that, you can be assured that we will collaborate,” said Dr. David Cox, director for Sullivan County Schools.

Part of this detailed document outlines how teachers should deal with individual classrooms based on community spread.

The following are the classroom guidelines outlined in the document:

There are also guidelines on how students and teachers should move throughout the school, also depending on community spread.

One example is that if they identify “minimal to moderate community spread” school officials recommend, “Appropriate wearing of face masks is strongly encouraged at all times in hallways.”

There is also an entire section of the plan dedicated to temperature screening for students.

If there is “no to minimal community spread,” school officials recommend parents check their child’s temperature at home.

However, if there is “minimal to moderate community spread,” the plan calls for temperature checks at schools if resources allow.

The plan also details how schools should deal with serving students food during the school day.

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