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Schools face more delays of in-person learning

The Johnson County School Board meets in a called meeting on Tuesday, August 25. Officials are meeting more regularly to discuss issues in light of COVID-19. The next meeting will be on Thursday, September 10. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Delaying the return to in-person learning the second time in a row, the Johnson County School Board decided to continue virtual learning through September 14.  During the Tuesday, August 25, Called School Board meeting, School Nurse and licensed nurse practitioner Wendy Henley explained details about COVID-19’s spread related to Johnson County Schools resulting in the Board’s consideration of a little more caution.  

“I came through the door ready to vote to go back to school,” said board member Kevin Long. “Until I heard Wendy.”

According to school officials, the original plan was to open schools on August 3, but officials delayed the return. Henley reported that 50 staff or faculty members had some type of exposure to COVID-19 at that time.  After discussing it again at its August 13 meeting, the school board decided to open schools virtually on Monday, August 17.  The exposure rate dropped to 43 staff members, and testing showed that 25 of those either tested positive or showed symptoms of COVID-19. Officials had 31 of the 43 in quarantine. Henley reported that 12 faculty members would remain in quarantine between September 3 and September 14.

“Students would be approximately 25 percent of people who are in this case,” School Board Chairman Howard Carlton pointed out after hearing that the COVID-19 rates are highest in people ages 11 to 20 in Johnson County .

After the initial contact on August 3, 26 students were exposed to COVID-19, according to Henley. She attributes 20 additional cases to athletics, which adds up to approximately 46 students exposed. Of those, 17 students were in quarantine until September 1.Henley mentioned incidents at the Doe Valley’s school bus garage, handing out Chromebooks, and in athletics while keeping individuals’ identities protected per HIPAA regulations. 

“As people develop their symptoms, they called, and we kept them out as much as we could,” Henley told the board. “This could potentially have been much higher. We were in both situations because of asymptomatic personnel.”

Johnson County School officials met electronically with a Northeast Regional Health officer on August 12. One primary focus was percent positivity, which is the percentage of all COVID-19 tests positive out of all tests in the area. According to John Hopkins researchers, health officials use the percent positivity to answer questions. 

“Johnson County has been the highest out of all the upper east counties,” Henley explained, citing the Zoom meeting and percent positivity.

Members will reconvene at the regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 10. View board meetings live or through archives on the Johnson County Schools TN Video YouTube channel.