Hixson updates Hawkins school opening plan

A day after announcing Hawkins Schools would delay opening a week, Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson clarified what that process will look like.

The students will not be in class on Aug. 4 as originally planned, but the school year will begin with online meetings and walkthroughs.

“We will open the school year on Aug. 4 as planned, but will do so with virtual parent and student meetings and walk-throughs on Aug. 4, Aug. 5 and Aug. 7,” Hixson said. “We will clean all facilities in preparation for Monday, Aug. 10, in the event we can open under the Yellow phase.”

Buses will run for those who will be on campuses on Monday and Tuesday, and again Wednesday and Thursday, for the respective groups.

Friday, all students will work from home remotely.

School officials are trying to analyze the available COVID-19 data and make the best decisions.

“I have asked our regional heath office, in Johnson City, to assist in breaking down current COVID-19 data relevant to our school populations, so that our decisions are based upon data affecting our students and staff. I will update you all with any progress,” Hixson said.

The updated level plan for Hawkins County Schools are:

Green Level: Schools remain open, operating as normal with general safety precautions in place. Hawkins County Schools will enlist parents and community in assisting with ensuring student safety and health.

Average rate of active new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents is five or less, over the last 14 day period (or as identified by school site).

Yellow Level: Schools are eventually forced to alter educational models. Hawkins County Schools would employ a remote/in-person hybrid learning scenario. Under the Yellow phase, the model would consist of bringing half of the students into classrooms Mondays and Tuesdays, working with all students remotely on Fridays while we deep clean all facilities, and bringing the remaining half of the student population to classrooms on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Average rate of active new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents is higher than six over the last 14 day period (or as identified by school site).

Red Level: Schools closed to students on campus, and there are subsequent school/community-based closures. In the event of school closures, Hawkins County Schools would employ their remote learning plan, consisting of all teachers teaching students remotely in live sessions where possible.

Average rate of new cases of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents is consistently and substantially higher than ten over the last 14 day period (or as identified by school site).

Virtual Offerings

Hixson said that there are two offerings for virtual classes this year.

Hawkins County Virtual Academy: HCVA is a long-term virtual educational program in its second year. It offers up to 150 seats for those who wish to participate in virtual learning long-term, preferably for the 2020-21 school year. This is also offered for students who have internships, jobs, dual enrollment, early military entrance, etc. and who may need flexible instructional times.

Hawkins County eLearning Program: HCeLP, is a new addition, adding short-term and as-needed virtual learning options for students who do not feel safe returning to school. HCeLP is intended to be a semester-to-semester option and will be the platform the system employs if students and teachers are moved toward virtual learning during the course of the school year.

Parents who wish to utilize this option will need to sign up no later than Friday, July 24. In the event Hawkins County Schools enters a Red phase, HCeLP will be utilized for all students. With this in mind, all students will receive log in and account information at the start of this school year. Teachers and students will have opportunities to explore this tool within their classroom environments and at home once they have their accounts established. Any transitions to full virtual instruction will be easier if students are exposed to these tools prior to that point, if possible.

Masks

At this point, masks will be provided for all employees and students.

Staff are encouraged during the Yellow phase of operation to wear masks in all common areas. Student mask wearing remains a personal decision, one that each parent and student will need to make.

“We will make it abundantly clear that no matter the personal choice, we will act professionally toward one another and will expect the same of all students,” Hixson said.

In-class teaching continues

for certain groups

The system will continue in-class teaching for all PreK-2 graders at school sites Mondays through Thursdays during Yellow phases. This group represents the critical age to establish strong reading foundations. The American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends schools make every effort to keep students in school, especially those within this age range.

According to the latest press release from the AAP, “the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” The Tennessee Department of Education agrees and has highly recommended the same. This age range is also the most difficult to effectively engage through virtual learning. Therefore, Hawkins County will make every effort to keep Pre K – 2 grade students in class, four days per week, separated as much as possible during any Yellow phase events.

Special population’s students will also be given the option to receive their services and core curriculum in school during any Yellow phase event.

Many necessary details and schedules will be established during a principal’s meeting on Thursday, with hope that further details can be released the week of July 27. At that point, students will be hearing from their school sites regarding specific information.