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Special called meeting… Carter County Schools adjust start date in preparation for virtual learning

BY BRITTNEE NAVE

STAR CORRESPONDENT

Carter County Schools have made the decision to move the back-to-school date to Aug. 17.

Students will go in-person to school during the week of August 17th on a staggered schedule, with 25 percent capacity, to provide materials and instruction on how to use virtual learning programming. 

Beginning August 24th, schools will convert to virtual learning for an undetermined amount of time.

Tracy McAbee, director of schools, began the meeting by explaining that the decision to reevaluate the school start date came from uncertainty in preparations for August 10th.

“We felt that we needed to have a time where we were with the kids to give them a device because we know the virus has not left Northeast Tennessee,” he said. “The date we set for that was August 10th.

“Things have not gone as planned, some of these things revolve around COVID…it’s all around. We feel it would be best to move that start date back.”

To get a general consensus of how those employed by the school system felt about this, McAbee sent out a survey that gave three options: the first being to stay as planned on August 10th with 25 percent of students attending.

The second was to wait until August 17th with 25 percent of students attending and give everyone another week and option three was to go completely virtual, waiting until August 17th.

The results of this survey showed 16 percent selecting option one, 36 percent choosing the second option, and 50 percent selecting the third.

“As I look at that, we’ve got roughly 85 percent of our employees needing that extra week, and I support that,” McAbee said.

Prior to the vote, the discussion went underway into what would be the best option.

One aspect brought up is the worry of increased, unreported child abuse due to no face-to-face contact with students and teachers.

Other concerns were for reopening and possibly spreading illness to those most at risk, like elderly guardians. Additionally, the aim was to ensure all students have equal access to education, regardless of internet status and the board’s decision.

The face-to-face interaction on August 17th allows teachers to see their students in person, beneficial to those who may be currently being neglected.

Prior to the meeting, McAbee met with five different principals in regard to whether teachers could be ready by August 17th.

It was agreed they would be.

There is currently no set-date to the end of virtual learning.

“I think it should be up to the superintendent’s discretion based on what’s going on around us,” said Danny Ward, school board member. “It could die tomorrow or pick up and double or triple.”