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Current plan is for Sullivan schools to return Aug. 3

Rick Wagner • Jun 14, 2020 at 11:15 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — With recent news that Kingsport and Hawkins County schools plan to return to in-person learning in early August, what about public schools in Sullivan County?

Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox said that’s the basic plan to start the 2020-21 school year, although he said how and when that will be done depends on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The calendar that has been approved by our board set the opening date to Aug. 3. We have not asked the board to change that,” Cox said Wednesday, although he added contingency plans are being developed. He said every Northeast Tennessee school system, represented by superintendents that meet regularly in Greeneville, is basically in the same boat but dependent on state education and health officials’ guidance.

With in-person graduation ceremonies still planned for each of the four high schools either July 31 or Aug. 1, Cox also said there is a possibility the start of in-person schooling could be delayed a little to allow time for any disinfecting or other things to get the four high school facilities ready.

All seniors have diplomas and had “Cross the Finish Line” events at Bristol Motor Speedway, and all had Friday Night Lights and other drive-by or drive-through events at or around the high schools.

Cox said the central office is working on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act application for $2.1 million, due July 15, and that funding is to include money to purchase more wireless devices so students can work from home in the case of future pandemics or in the event the current one worsens. Kingsport City Schools is applying for its share of CARES funding at $1.6 million.

He said that guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education, released last week, also will be used to map out the reopening of in-person learning to be presented to the Board of Education at its July 9 meeting. However, Cox said that the state guidance includes no tool kits, which are to come later, and that obviously the pandemic can change.

“Nobody can tell at this point exactly how the first day will look,” Cox said.

For instance, he said in-person learning could resume but in a staggered format in which students would report in shifts instead of all at once. Other options, he said, are a hybrid of online and in-person learning.

Hawkins County schools plan to resume in-person learning Aug. 4, while Kingsport’s planned start date is Aug. 3. Like Sullivan, those dates were set long before COVID-19 became a factor.

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