Johnson City Schools to reopen Aug. 4, if possible

Reopening The Region

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City Schools are set to be the latest school system beginning to devise a plan for reopening while awaiting guidance from Nashville.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the school system is working closely with officials from the Tennessee Department of Education and Department of Health to get students in the classroom by August 4, if possible.

“We are a key component to our community, then our plan is to open August 4 and to have a practical plan in place that is also safe for our students and for our staff members,” Barnett told school board members at the Monday Johnson City Schools Board of Education meeting.

During that meeting, Board Chairman Tim Belisle questioned the effectiveness of the school system’s plan against additional waves of COVID-19 cases.

“There are a fair number of experts who say they believe we’ll see a resurgence in the Fall, is the reopening plan going to include a component for what happens if we wind up having to shutdown again?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Barnett responded.

“We’re going to work through a plan between now and sometime later in June with our school board, get that to the school board and public health officials, make sure that we get approval for the plan, then we’ll do a survey of our community, we want to get input from our parents – see how they feel about it, see how the parents feel about, you know, some students have underlying health conditions, they may still have to learn from home and have some distance learning throughout the year, so it’s one of those areas over the summer,” Barnett explained to News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

Barnett said the school system will have to take extra precautions to keep high school students safe, as they move through hallways between classes, something younger students don’t have to deal with.

“Huge difference between open an elementary with 300-500 students and the 2,300 comprehensive high school with vocational school and two gymnasiums and all the classes,” he said. “We want them to have that rich experience but we especially want everybody to be safe.”

Some steps must be taken first.

“We’ll have to do some baseline assessments and decide who needs it – whatever they need – and how can we support our schools and all of our students through this,” Barnett said. “One of the things I think we have to keep in mind, I think being in Nashville is a lot different than being in Johnson City right now.”

Barnett said the first step is clear, though.

“We’re going to start with school opening and having school. That’s the start. We’re going to look at that , we’re looking at that first and working our way back based on guidance from public health officials and the state department of education,” he said.

Johnson City Schools will be hosting summer academic camps for grades K through 4, from June 15 until July 2.

Barnett told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais his thoughts on students wearing masks at school in the Fall:

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