WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials with the Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday evening to bring all students back to the classroom starting February 1.
The board first tentatively planned to return to class February 8.
“Let’s get the kids back in school,” said board member, Keith Ervin who made the original motion.
While there was some contention over contracts signed by families who signed up for virtual classes for the entire year, one motivator was a piece of legislation co-sponsored by state representatives Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) and Tim Hicks (R-Gray). House Bill 7021 would require schools to be in session at least 70 days before the summer break or face the loss of state funding.
“We had his planned before we heard about that,” said Board Chair Jason Day. “Once we heard about it just kind of made it a little more important to push to get this done so we don’t lose any funding for the kids.”
Washington County’s School Director said the district has only been in person for 16 days this entire school year.
“We go through several hundred thousand dollars a day to operate this school system and we can’t lose that kind of money,” said Flanary. “We need to be funded for a full 180 day school year.”
The proposed law has advanced to the Senate Education Committee.
“A lot of it is the legislature’s reaction to what’s going on in the big urban school systems, Memphis and Nashville because they have not been able to go back at all I believe…Not a whole lot to do with what’s going on in Jonesborough, a whole lot more of what’s going on in Memphis,” said Flanary.
Prior to the meeting, a small group of parents gathered outside of the Washington County, Tennessee BOE meeting, asking for members to return students to the classroom.
“They had to see our face and they had to see ‘Yeah there are people that want us to go back to school,” said Ridgeview Elementary parent, Wendy Rice. “We thought several times they were going to go back to school and they were not so we just want to make sure they understand how important it really is to us.”
Those outside listened to the meeting on speakers in the parking lot.
“I’ve got a freshman and a senior. That’s two very important years in a child’s life, and they’re not getting to experience any of those experiences that they should have to prepare them for their life after high school,” said Davide Crockett High School Parent, Christy Marshall who organized the protest. “It’s not about them being around their friends. It’s not about them being able to socialize with their friends…It’s just the normalcy of life. They’re missing out on so much”
For parents that did sign a contract for their students to be virtual for the 2020-2021 school year, those students do not have to return unless they want to.