With half of West View Middle School's 7th graders in COVID-19 quarantine, Dr. Jeff Perry, superintendent of Hamblen County Schools, said the system is encouraging all West View 7th graders to participate in an optional virtual program beginning Thursday.

"We have seen a significant spike in the number of cases in our 7th grade at West View Middle School," Perry said "We have been forced to quarantine nearly half of (West View's) 7th grade students, and it is no longer feasible, or safe, to provide instruction to all remaining students in person.  We will implement an optional virtual program for all (West View) students in 7th grade starting on Thursday, August 19."

Perry said the program is specific to West View seventh graders and not necessary, or available, for students at other schools. In fact, Perry noted that four schools in the system have no active cases of COVID-19 at all.      

"On August 19, we will encourage all (West View) students in the 7th grade to participate virtually," he said. "However, school will be open for (non-quarantined) students who are unable to function well with virtual instruction, and they can attend school as long as they are symptom free."

Perry said the school is operating normally on Wednesday, giving parents a day to consider options and make appropriate arrangements. 

Perry said the virtual instruction will last only for about a week. 

"The optional virtual program for this group of students will cease on August 27, and students should report back to in-person class on August 30 as long as they are not presenting symptoms," Perry said. " This short period of time will enable us to more effectively identify those students as being positive because they will have time to present symptoms.  It is our hope this will allow us to stop the spread of the virus in our school." 

Perry said the non-quarantined West View students who are virtual will still have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular events as long as they complete all necessary assignments and are in good standing with the school. 

Students may not return to school if they are presenting symptoms or if they have been quarantined by the school.