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School Board questions calendar

Staff note: The Johnson County School Board set the date for the upcoming called meeting on Thursday afternoon. The meeting will be on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.


By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County School Board set a calendar for the 2020-2021 school year during the Wednesday, August 5, called meeting. Now the public and select board members are questioning whether it was the right decision. The discussion came back up at the regularly scheduled Thursday, August 13 meeting.

“I think we probably made a mistake when we chose the calendar,” said newly re-elected board member Mike Payne. “I’ve never gotten so many calls about something since I’ve been on the board. I would like to revisit this calendar when we have our called meeting in a month. I think we made a mistake. We need to own it, and we need to look at this again.”

When discussing the calendar, Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox presented four different plans for returning to school, which factor into the calendar. Officials approved Plan One, deciding to start virtually from August 17 through August 28 before reassessing.

The calendar had to be updated to account for the eight days lost by delaying the school year. Schools are required to provide 180 days of instruction by law, according to Simcox. Plan One offered two different calendar options. Each plan removes select days such as Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day to make up the numbers.

The approved school calendar from the August 5 meeting cuts Fall Break and the day before Thanksgiving among other days. Simcox mentioned that this was the least popular choice from staff surveys in both meetings. According to data, 74 percent of participants were not okay with canceling Fall Break.

According to Payne, this calendar interferes with teachers’ holiday plans as well as scheduled medical procedures. Board Chairman Howard Carlton was adamant that this would not be an issue.

“The point I’ve made is that the decision has already been made,” said Carlton. “If we keep going back on all of the decisions, then we’re going to throw everything into chaos. If we tell someone that they can, can’t, or we’re going to revisit it next month, are they going to be able to keep the plans they have? There’s nothing convenient about this whole year. I don’t think we made a mistake. It was a tough decision.”

Any calendar changes have to be sent to the State of Tennessee for approval. Elementary and Federal Programs Supervisor Angie Wills suggests that the week of Fall Break be virtual whether school reconvenes or not, and all parties seemed to agree. The School Board will revisit this subject at the called meeting. As of now, the date is still being discussed.

The Johnson County School Board meets regularly on the second Thursday of each month at Central Office at 6 p.m. Any interested party can watch the meeting live or its playback on the Johnson County Schools TN Video Youtube Channel.