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Back to School on shaky ground amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mischelle Simcox stands with the Roan Creek Elementary heroes at the October 2019 school board meeting. Left to right: Kyler Osborne, Claira Porter, Bryan Kidd,Ethan Cannon, Dade Eggers, Mischelle Simcox. Not pictured: Gibby Anderson.  File photo.

Staff Note: Since publication, Johnson County Schools has decided to go fully virtual from August 17 to August 28. Administrators will reevaluate how to move forward at the end of this period.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

 Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual back to school routine is clearly off track, filling the 2020-2021 school year with uncertainties and no guarantees. Johnson County Schools has established new ways to learn and update its online capabilities to compensate, but there is no guarantee that everything will run smoothly. Now it seems uncertain whether students will be able to learn on campus or practice established extracurricular activities such as sports.

In mid-June, Johnson County Schools officials sent out surveys asking parents, teachers, and staff what type of learning environment they would be comfortable with at this time.  According to Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox, in an interview that month, they received more than 1,000 surveys, and “the majority wished to return to in-person classes for the upcoming school year.”

A lot has changed in that short time. Johnson County’s active COVID-19 case count has been steadily rising. According to compiled sources including the CDC and WHO, the county’s confirmed COVID-19 count shot up by 19 cases On Sunday, August 2. 

“I pray that we will be able to have school this year in-person because I truly believe that is what is best for our students,” Director Simcox said in a July 27 statement to faculty, staff, and the press.

The beginning of the school year has been postponed twice so far. The Johnson County School Board scheduled a called meeting for Wednesday, August 5, at Central Office to discuss and approve a plan for the 2020-2021 school year and any calendar changes. 

There is a decent chance that Johnson County will follow neighboring counties in the footsteps and go fully digital as it did for the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

“The safety of our students and staff is the most important thing during this time,” Simcox said.

The upcoming school year is plagued with uncertainties. Visit for new information on the school year, how virtual learning works, and the current school action plan. The called meeting will be held at Central Office, located at 211 North Church Street in Mountain City, at 5 p.m. Listen to the playback on the Johnson County Schools TN Video Youtube channel.