Hamilton County Schools To Close For 2 Weeks; Baylor, McCallie, Silverdale Also Closing And Moving To Online Learning

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Hamilton County School officials said they are closing the county schools for two weeks "to help combat the spread of coronavirus in our community."

Baylor School and McCallie School officials said they are also closing their campuses and going to online learning, as is Silverdale Academy.

Catoosa County Schools and Dade County Schools will close Monday, March 16, through March 27. Bradley and Cleveland Schools will have an announcement on Friday. 

Baylor officials said, "Ongoing developments related to COVID-19, Baylor School will be suspending on-campus classes at the end of the academic day on Friday, March 13.  Later this month, the school will reassess the return to campus. The school’s academic program will continue through distance learning and instruction until the regularly scheduled spring break April 3-12.  In the interest of student safety and public health, all after school activities, practices, and games have been suspended indefinitely until further notice.  Consistent with other operations, the school will reevaluate spring athletics and other activities and will notify families as soon as plans are known. 

"Boarding parents have been notified that we are suspending on-campus classes and they are making travel arrangements for their students to return home as soon as possible.  We are prepared to work with students who need assistance in making plans and those unable to travel home. Because we have families living on campus, our residence halls and essential services will remain open, but on a much smaller scale.  A small team of essential personnel will also remain on campus."

McCallie School Headmaster Lee Burns and Board Chairman James Ruffin said, "We are writing to inform you that McCallie is transitioning to a virtual school environment and online learning format through Spring Break. Tomorrow (Friday) will be the final day of classes and activities on campus until further notice. 

"Classes will not be held on Monday and Tuesday of next week as the faculty continues to prepare for this transition. We will begin holding classes online Wednesday, March 18. The daily school schedule will remain the same. Further communication regarding the logistics of online classes will be forthcoming.


 "We have made this decision carefully and in earnest because it is best for the health and safety of your sons and our school community. The coronavirus is now a pandemic because it is easily spread in crowds, such as classrooms. While McCallie so far has not had any instances of the virus on our campus, we believe that the responsible thing to do is to temporarily discontinue activities in which there are crowds.


"Classes are not being canceled; we are going to conduct them remotely. Zoom and Google Classroom, the two internet-based platforms we will use, will enable your sons to have face-to-face interaction and engagement with their teachers and classmates in a virtual classroom setting. These tools will allow for the daily flow of campus activities to continue, albeit at a distance. Students will follow their same daily schedule, attending classes, meetings with advisor groups, and other routine student gatherings. We are currently working with faculty to develop optimal and productive ways to conduct research, projects, labs, music and art classes, and other parts of the daily schedule.


"All athletic games and practices during this period will be canceled. Athletic and other campus facilities will be off-limits to all users except for residential faculty and international boarders who will be remaining on campus through this period, including Spring Break. Our dorms will remain open for boarding students who cannot return to their homes because of the virus, and we will care for and supervise them throughout this time period.


"Domestic boarding parents can pick up your sons beginning this Friday afternoon, although we understand it might take you several days to make arrangements for getting them. You will not have to clear out his dorm room, but please be sure to take all his textbooks, supplies, and other learning materials. Our hope is that the threat of the coronavirus will have lessened, and we will be able to resume campus activities after Spring Break on April 14. We will keep you informed.


"We have not made this decision lightly, and we know that this decision will impact each family differently and that you may have many questions. To that end, we will hold a series of online parent meetings on Tuesday, March 17. At these meetings, school administrators and faculty members will be able to answer your questions and give you more details on how the distance-learning system will work. The tentative schedule is:


Day Parents – 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Boarding Parents – 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Day Parents – 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Boarding Parents – 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Parents of Chinese Students – 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.


"We will inform you via email on Monday about how to access these discussions online. All of this information also will be placed on our website page devoted to the coronavirus.


"We are looking at this virtual school period as a learning and growing opportunity for our students and faculty. More and more colleges and universities, as well as businesses, are using distance-learning technology. Your sons will benefit from developing this added skill set. We will do everything in our power to make this period a part of the powerful McCallie experience that your sons are enjoying."


County School officials said, "Over the last 24 hours, there has been a change in tone around the coronavirus, as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic; at the federal level, President Trump restricted travel; and Governor Lee this morning declared a State of Emergency in Tennessee to combat the spread of the virus.  

"While at this time there are no known confirmed cases of coronavirus in the community, Hamilton County Schools will close for the next two weeks to provide a two-week window for children to be out of school to reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. We make this decision with the safety of our children and the community in mind.

"Tomorrow, Friday, March 13, will be a regular school day. We will use this as an opportunity to provide students with learning materials and review with them the process of how we will continue learning while students are out of school.

"The district will recommend to the Hamilton County Board of Education that Spring Break be moved up two weeks to March 23-27 to reduce the loss of instruction time. The board will meet on Monday, March 16, to consider the change of the school calendar. 

"The district knows moving Spring Break will disrupt family plans, and we will work with parents and students in this situation.  If the board approves the change, planned trips for the original period for Spring Break, April 3 through April 10, will be excused absences for those students.  The district has not changed plans for schools to be out on April 10 for Good Friday. With the already planned student holiday on Monday, March 16, students will miss an additional four days of school in this plan versus the original school calendar.

"Field trips, all school activities and athletic events and practices are canceled through March 30. School-aged Child Care will be closed from March 16-March 27 as well.

"We know that access to food can be an issue for some children when school is out.  The district is working with community groups and our School Nutrition Department to determine options to address this concern.   

"We are in an extraordinary situation at this time, and out of an abundance of caution, the school district is looking to do its part to help address the problem.  We are planning for students to return to school on Monday, March 30.  This district will continue to monitor the situation over the next two weeks.

"It is our goal for student learning to continue while we are closed. Through the district’s HCS Continued Learning Plan, the district will provide learning opportunities for children to complete while we are out of school. These assignments will be posted on the www.hcde.org website, and the learning packets will also be available for pick up at schools (if parents are unable to access them on the website). Plans are in place for working through the issue of students and families without internet access so that all students will have access to learning opportunities. 

"We will coordinate with staff and work with them to set schedules as we move through this process to continue learning opportunities while doing so in an appropriate environment for our teachers and staff.  

"Hamilton County Schools has been in consultation with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department as we developed these plans.  As you see in the graphic, Flattening the curve, from the CDC, delaying action is a problem, so the district is seeking to flatten the curve in our community to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on the Greater Chattanooga area.  Thank you for your support of our children and our school district as we work through this global issue together."

Beginning Monday, March 16, Silverdale Baptist Academy and Preschool will be closed until further notice. Officials said, "We have made plans to minimize potential gaps in the continuity of education so that students can continue learning from home. Updates on further developments and timelines will be communicated to our families as the information is made clear to us."

For more information, visit: www.silverdaleba.org/covid-19

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