By Jill Penley
The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, the nation, and the state continues to wreak havoc on school schedules forcing administrators to make decisions based on the fluidity of the situation.And with 120 plus active cases at print time, the situation in Johnson County is suddenly alarming.After reporting daily positive cases in the single digits for months, local numbers began to surge last week, reaching a daily high of 25 positives on Aug 1.
“Due to the recent spike in COVID cases in our county, we have decided to delay the start of the school year until Monday, August 17,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools. “The safety of our students and staff is the most important thing during this time.” There will be a special called board meeting on Wednesday at 5 p.m. to discuss the plan for returning.
In March, as the coronavirus began to spread schools dismissed for what turned out to be the rest of the school year, and as weeks turned into months, pediatricians and educators began to voice concern that school closures were doing more harm than good, especially as evidence mounted that children rarely develop severe symptoms from COVID-19.
School officials across the state are faced with the difficult situation of preparing for several eventualities as the time draws near for schools to resume, andthe COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect residents.
“During the first few days of schools, teachers will be asked to provide their in-person students with the information needed to do the online programs should we have to transition to full virtual for students,” said Simcox, who advises teacher workdays will now be Aug 13 and Aug 14. “We will continue to work hard to provide our students the best education possible,” said Simcox.
The entire situation remains fluid, and local school administrators continue to monitor state guidelines. “The safety of our students and staff will impact every decision we make, said Simcox, “but it is impossible to ensure absolute guarantees.” She acknowledges there will be some health risks to reopen schools.
According to Simcox, this is uncharted territory for school systems across the country; however, standing still and not having school is not an option. “It is important to note that this is a working plan, and we will make modifications as we receive updates from our Governor, the State Department of Education, CDC, and our Regional Health Department,” she said. “I know that parents will do what is best for their children, and I know that everyone will work together to support one another through this difficult time.”
The Tennessee Department of Health reports 28 total cases in COVID-19 in individuals between the ages of five and 13 in Johnson County, with 13 of those being reported since the beginning of August.