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Trying to answer the questions… Elizabethton City Schools try to answer questions about school re-opening

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com    
As a new school year is just a mere two weeks away for students in the Elizabethton City School system, there appear to be a whole lot more questions than answers as to how the school year is going to look for students who basically haven’t donned the hallways of schools for nearly five months.
With COVID-19 gaining strength in Carter County and surrounding counties, there are still questions as to whether schools will start on time or online as time will tell.
However, Elizabethton City Schools Director Richard Van Huss and his team have been working tirelessly to answer as many questions as possible for students, teachers, and parents in regard to the most frequently asked questions at this stage.
The following questions and answers were presented recently to help those in the community understand where everything currently stands.
What metric are Elizabethton City Schools using to gauge what the acceptable threshold criteria?
One metric that Elizabethton City Schools will use is the Average Rate of New COVID-19 Cases
per 100,000 County Residents over the last 14 days.

What happens if we go into the “Red Zone”?
Going into “red” or substantial (defined as an average of > 11+new COVID-19 cases per 100,000
Carter County residents over the last 14 days) will not automatically mean that schools
shutdown and every student will become a distance learner.

Local health departments, school officials, city and county leaders cannot focus only on the
number of cases and the case rate alone, but should also consider characteristics across four
factors to fully determine community risk. These factors include:

– Disease epidemiology: Level of community transmission, number, and type of outbreaks,
the impact of the outbreaks on delivery of healthcare or other critical infrastructure or services, and
epidemiology in surrounding jurisdictions.

– Community characteristics: Size of community and population density, level of community
engagement/support, size, and characteristics of vulnerable populations access to healthcare,
transportation planned large events, and the relationship of the community to other communities.

– Local healthcare capacity: Healthcare workforce, number of healthcare facilities, testing
capacity, hospital intensive care unit capacity, and availability of personal protective equipment.

– Public health capacity: Public health workforce and availability of resources to implement
strategies, and available support from other states/local government agencies and partner
organizations.

How will we know the “current level”?
Elizabethton City Schools will decide each week and notify the public of our current level. This
will provide our students/staff a level of certainty for each week and prevent our teachers from
making multiple changes throughout the week.

If operating the minimal to a moderate level (yellow category), will students and staff be required to
wear facemasks to school?
Yes, students and staff will be required to wear masks in common areas and buses. While in
classrooms, students will either wear masks, have a physical barrier to the side of desks, or
distance approximately six feet apart.
Students and staff that have trouble breathing due to
an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason may be
exempt from this requirement.
If either you or your child has a medical reason that prohibits wearing a mask at these required times,
please contact your child’s school.

What happens, truancy-wise, if a student or family member contracts COVID-19? It could be longer
than 20 days for a household.
Doctor notes will be accepted as excused absences in either distance or traditional learning.
COVID related absences will be excused and will not be in absence counts for truancy purposes.

What will learning look like if a school or the district shuts down?
Should all of Elizabethton City Schools transition to distance learning, the expectations are to
remain the same and students will transition to distance learning with their classroom teacher.

How will grading work for Distance Learners?
Grading will work the same for distance learners as traditional students. They will receive
progress reports and report cards through their school and/or through Skyward.

If my child has 504 or IEP and is a distance learner, will it be followed?
Yes, students who have an active IEP, 504, or ILP will receive accommodations as stated in their
most recent plan. An IEP team meeting may be called to design a plan specific to the needs of
the student.

If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed in a classroom, does my child have to quarantine?
No, your child will quarantine if they are designated as direct contact, which is defined as
within six-feet of a confirmed case for more than 10 minutes.
These determinations will be made in cooperation with the Carter County Regional Health Department.

If a child contracts COVID, can the student go to distance learning?
Yes, they will go to distance learning with their classroom teacher.

What happens if there are Internet issues?
Please notify the school should you have internet connectivity issues. Appropriate assistance
will be provided.
Students who experience home internet issues from time-to-time should immediately report it to their
course teacher so students are not unfairly penalized for the unexpected outages.
If ongoing Internet issues arise, the teacher, student, and family will consult to determine how to
proceed so that Internet issues do not become a barrier to learning.

What materials/supply requirements for distance? Cost for those items?

Distance learners do not have any additional fees or supply requirements. Students might need
paper and pencil if they prefer to draft their notetaking, calculations, etc. on paper as a tool to
assist with the completion of online work.
We have an array of online tools that will assist with these tasks, too (Microsoft online tools,
Google Classroom, etc.).

Have graduation requirements changed?
No. Graduation requirements for the class of 2021 and beyond remain the same for an EHS
diploma and are found here.

What is the impact on juniors and seniors if they can’t take the classes they need?
All graduation requirements can be met through the distance learning course list.
Student preference for a course cannot be met in every department; however, a course is offered to
meet every requirement. Any extenuating circumstance will be reviewed on a case-by-case
basis.

What will school transportation look like?
School buses will continue to provide transportation for students to and from school each day; however,
Elizabethton City Schools cannot guarantee that students will not be infected.
Guidelines provided by the CDC (and others) cannot be followed in a way that allows us to get students
to school in a timely manner.
Social distancing on a bus would only allow us to transport 11 students at a time.

Unfortunately, most systems do not have the resources (drivers or buses) to make this a reality. We will
require students to wear masks on the bus.
Transportation will be provided and students will be allowed to ride buses as long as they understand the
risk, and adhere to the following guidelines to help minimize the risk to themselves and others:

1. Parents need to check temperatures prior to sending students to the bus stop.
2. Students with a 100.4 temperature, and/or who are otherwise symptomatic, should
remain home.
3. All students riding a bus will wear an appropriate mask.
4. All students will be assigned seats while traveling.
5. If a student removes their mask at any time while being transported, they will no longer
be allowed to ride a bus.
6. All other school rules and guidelines remain in effect.
7. Failure to follow guidelines will result in a student(s) removal from the bus.

Due to the current pandemic, school field trips are inadvisable (at this time). Extracurricular travel and
travel outside of the state will not be allowed. We will continue to monitor issues daily with the intent to
move back to “normal” as soon as it is safely allowable.
A full document detailing reopening for in-person as well as online can be found on the school systems website.