The White County Schools will start the fall term with students in school two days a week and at home three days.
The hybrid model, according to Director of Schools Kurt Dronebarger, represents a cautious way to ensure student safety.
“We’re going to open with students in school two days a week and we’ll have one cohort that comes on Monday and Tuesday and then another group that comes in on Thursday and Friday,” Dronebarger said. “And our plan is to run that along with the governor’s latest executive order, which will carry us through the end of August and we’ll monitor illness during that time. And if such time, we feel like things are going well and we haven’t seen a big spike, then we’ll plan to open up on a full traditional schedule starting September 1st.”
Dronebarger said the recent increase in COVID cases affected his decision, but all along he wanted to be cautious in the approach to reopening school.
“I just felt like if the governor was saying that we’re not safe to go to Wal-Mart or to a restaurant in full capacity, I have a hard time understanding how we can go to school safely in a full capacity,” Dronebarger said. “So I just want to monitor it. We’re seeing spikes, you know, in recent weeks around the country, certainly here in Tennessee, we’ve seen the number of covered cases going up.”
Principals will notify parents next week on their child’s schedule. Students from the same family will go to school the same day, Dronebarger said. The first month will be designed to help take pressure off parents to conduct lessons.
“We’re we’re planning to implement the flipped classroom method method for the most part so when our students are at home for those three days, they will have assignments, but it will be mostly watching videos, introductory videos or do an introductory reading on the lessons,” Dronebarger said. “And then when they come to school on Monday and Tuesday or on the two days that they come, they will do more assessments, more activities, more hands on learning, and students and teachers can intervene at those times.”
Social distancing will take place around schools including cafeterias. Buses will run as normal but students will be required to wear masks.
“We cannot social distance on their on the buses,” Dronebarger said. “Even though they’re coming at half capacity, we’ll still be overloaded on buses.”
Dronebarger said he understood that neighboring school systems are planning to go back as normal. However, he said he must do what he believes is best for the county.
“As directors of schools, this has all been placed on our shoulders,” Dronebarger said. “And, you know, I’d rather be wrong and be cautious than be wrong and be foolish. And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.”