County School Students To Return To Campuses Next Monday

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Hamilton County Schools officials said students will be returning to campuses next Monday. 

K-5 will be four days per week, and all other grades on a hybrid/A-B schedule.

County School officials said, "Due to the current Phase Tracker level of 0.73% based on local COVID-19 trend data for the five-day average, Hamilton County Schools will follow the Phase 2 scedule Feb.

1-5. Please be aware there have been some changes to the original Phase 2 schedule.

"Based on the feedback of medical professionals, today the district announced several updates to its phased reopening plan including adding 4th and 5th grade to the K-3 Phase 2 schedule beginning Feb. 1.

 

"All K-5 students will attend school in person four days a week during the week of Feb. 1. Wednesday will be a remote learning day.

 

"Grades 6-12 will follow an A/B hybrid schedule and attend school in person two days per week during the week of Feb. 1.

 

"If the district remains in Phase 2 the week of Feb. 8, grades 6-8 will be added to the four days per week in-person Phase 2 schedule going forward, based on the guidance of medical professionals. Grades 9-12 will remain on the A/B hybrid schedule during Phase 2. The district will officially announce the phase for the week of Feb. 8 next Tuesday, Feb. 2.

 

"The School Reopening Task Force will be actively reviewing the situation in the coming weeks, and will consider additional adjustments to our reopening plan as needed, including a five-day week for K-5 during Phase 2."

Dr. Charles Woods, who advises the county schools on matters related to COVID-19, said, "The seven-day averages are coming down. The peak was almost a month ago."

He cautioned that "there is no risk-free path to move forward. All choices have consequences." However, he said officials know much more about the virus than when it first broke out.

Dr. Woods said, "It seems appropriate to begin looking at going back."

School Board member Steve Highlander made this statement, "During this pandemic, it is my prayer that you have not been faced with COVID causing the death of a loved one or a close friend. Unfortunately, I have. This has been no easy task, and the pain I saw and felt has shaped how I have led during this time.

"Over the time of the pandemic, we have lost a brother-in-law, prayed for the recovery of a deacon and his wife who is currently in ICU, and prayed for a daughter and aunt recently being released from the hospital. My cousin has finally turned the corner after a six-week battle where we feared for his life.

"Recently I preached the funeral of one of my best friends recently who lost his battle to the deadly virus. The toll this has taken on our community has united our citizens and made us stronger.

"My fervent prayers are for this virus’ numbers to stay down, for children to safely return to school, and our community to begin healing. My heart hurts for a student’s need to learn and a parent needing to work. I hold the opinion that our children need to be in school.

"After hearing encouraging words from two doctors who sit on the superintendent’s advisory board and taking advice from medical professionals, our children could be back at school next week. These professionals are in daily contact with the superintendent and his staff. At this time, they have more real knowledge than I do.

"The risk we bear for sending students back to early is the death of a family member, bus driver, cafeteria worker, teacher, or Heaven forbid, one of our children.

"I ask you to join me in prayer, asking for our community to heal and the tracking numbers to justify medically advised clearance for schools to open after this week."

School Board members last Thursday had a lengthy debate over whether to bring students back to school. The vote was 5-4 against doing so at this time. The board then instructed Supt. Bryan Johnson to reopen school as quickly and as safely as possible. The county schools had in-person school for the first 84 days of this school year. There was a switch to virtual learning after a spike in COVID-19 cases in December. In recent days, the case numbers have come down significantly from the previous highs.


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