Sullivan County Schools ‘yellow zone’ could include ‘hybrid’ learning model


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- If Sullivan County Schools were currently in session – they’d be in the yellow zone. The school system, like most others in the region, is using different colored safety zones based on the number of COVID-19 cases in their county. The yellow zone means more extensive safety precautions. Sullivan County Schools is considering using a ‘hybrid’ model of in-person and virtual learning in this zone.

With the Sullivan County hybrid learning model, students coming back to school in-person would be divided into A and B groups. Group A would attend in-person school Monday and Tuesday, and then be virtual the rest of the week. Group B would be virtual Monday through Wednesday, then attend in-person school on Thursday and Friday.

Students will still learn 5 days a week on the hybrid learning model. Two days would be in-person, and three would be virtual

Other area school districts, including Greeneville City Schools and Washington County Public Schools in Virginia, have approved similar A/B Hybrid models.

News Channel 11 reached out to the other school districts within Sullivan County on Friday. Representatives for both Kingsport City Schools and Bristol, Tennessee City Schools said they were not currently considering A/B Hybrid learning models.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Dr. David Cox says this hybrid model is one option the system is considering.

“If we reach a point where we activate that, it could be in the yellow zone or potentially even the red zone,” he said.

Dr. Cox said efforts would be made to ensure siblings are in the same group.

Whether this model is used depends on how many active cases of COVID-19 are in Sullivan County at a time. To trigger the red zone (when exclusively remote learning is considered) it takes an average rate of 11 or more new cases per 100,000 county residents over 14 days.

Threshold levels to be used as guidance by Sullivan County Schools

But Dr. Cox says the school system and Sullivan County Health Department will also factor case clusters in their decision-making. If multiple cases are reported from one contained facility in the county, school and health leaders may only count that as one case when considering operational plans for schools.

“If there, just for purposes of discussion, might be 30 cases in a contained facility, that number goes in as 30 in the total,” said Dr. Cox. “If you change the factor that there are 30 cases contained in a facility or a specific location as one, then that brings the epi curve number down. So we’re going to be looking at both of those numbers. And that will guide our decisions.”

Dr. Cox said the epi curve numbers are just guides and don’t automatically trigger certain green, yellow, or red plans. The school system will inform parents every Friday what model of learning will be used the following week.

“We will announce the Friday before August 5th if we’re going to do anything other than open with everyone,” said Dr. Cox. “All of us are working very hard to create pathways where there aren’t any.”

Sullivan County Schools is offering its Virtual Learning Academy for parents who want their kids to only learn from home. Dr. Cox says nearly 1,500 of the school system’s approximately 9,000 students are enrolled so far. The enrollment deadline is July 20th at 12 p.m.

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