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Carter County School Board launches new plan for in-person learning and sports

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
 
Yay or nay: reopen schools and have sports to play?
 
Reopening schools in-person and resuming extracurriculars were hot topics of discussion at the Carter County School Board meeting on Thursday evening. 
 
While the meeting took place via ZOOM and was presented to the public on Facebook Live, parents and students chanted outside wanting to go back to school.
 
Joining the meeting were Chuck Babb and Bret Jones to share their thoughts.
 
Babb, a parent and educator for Carter County Schools, spoke first.
 
He presented statistics from the CDC in regard to the population in regards to COVID-19, including the likelihood of death. He explained that the CDC and the American Association of Pediatrics have advised allowing children to return to school. 
 
After Babb presented this information, he described scenarios in which virtual learning could be harmful to children physically and developmentally (i.e. cases of abuse, working parents who cannot leave children home alone all day, grandparents as guardians who may not be able to teach children, etc.).
 
“We have more than one expert on this panel, that are experts in early childhood learning and literacy, and this is the main reason I’m here,” he said. “I had three children in this school system last year, and I have two now.
 
“One of them is in first grade. I think every expert on the panel will tell you K-2 are the most critical foundational years in a child’s education.”
Babb said he and many other parents feel they are being asked to send their children unprepared into their next grade level. He explained the fear of negative impacts following younger children for the rest of their academic careers as a result. 
Babb concluded by saying he is asking for the right to choose whether his child can go in-person or not, just as there should remain a choice to be virtual as well. 
 
“I’m asking you to allow parents to decide what is best for their own children,” he said. 
 
Bret Jones addressed the board after Babb and shared similar points.
 
Jones also brought in statistics from the American Association of Pediatrics and the CDC. Among his points of discussion included information on children spreading the virus, and other deadly illnesses, like the flu, that are spread yearly. 
 
“There is a lot of information out there about how devastating it is for our children not to be in school and not to be a part of extracurricular activities if they so choose so,” he said. 
 
Among the points made, Jones said everyone should have the right to stay home or go in-person, as well as wear a mask, based on their own choice.
 
He also explained that he has not spoken to any adult or child that has been opposed to playing sports. Additionally, he expressed concern over halting sports in regards to practice and even athletic program funding.
 
The board went on to address and discuss the issues at hand after hearing from Babb and Jones, pointing out themselves issues with online learning.
 
After discussions, it was ultimately decided that beginning Aug. 24, students will go at 25 percent capacity in-person for two weeks.
 
After this, students will go at 50 percent capacity for two weeks. This decision is pending that cases in Carter County do not escalate back to alarming numbers.
 
Decisions regarding schools will continue to be discussed at the September meeting. 
 
The board also decided that sports and other extracurricular activities will resume.
 
Students and parents must sign a consent form in front of an administrator acknowledging they know the risks of COVID-19. Compliance with all TSSAA guidelines must be followed. 
 
Calendar changes being implemented include Nov. 4 being a virtual learning day rather than being closed after elections, a full school day on Dec. 18, and the last day being May 24. 
 
For more information, go to www.carterk12.net or check out the school system’s Facebook page.