Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said Friday that there will be several changes concerning quarantining and contact tracing in the school system as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

One of those changes is the school system will no longer conduct contact tracing.

“We have notified the health department that we will no longer contact trace within the schools,” he said. “We have discovered that accurately contact tracing students at school is very difficult because of multiple transitions. In addition, students are highly mobile and interactive after school, which creates multiple opportunities for infection.”

Perry said today that the school system has seen 354 active cases of COVID-19 since school began. Currently, the school systems have a total of 229 active cases, 214 students and 15 staff. There are more than 560 students quarantined at this time.

He said this is the largest amount of positive cases since the pandemic began in March 2020.

More changes for the school system include:

• The school system will no longer be responsible for quarantining high school or middle school students. The parent will be responsible for quarantining their child.

• Preliminary contact tracing will continue at the elementary school level. Students who test positive will be sent home. Parents of children who were in close contact with a student who tested positive will be notified and it will be their responsibility to decide if they want to quarantine their student.

• The school system will notify the health department about the student testing positive and it will be up to the health department to reach out to the family whose child tested positive.

• The school system will notify parents if their child was in contact with a student who tested positive.

• The health department will provide a letter if a child tests positive. A child will not be counted absent if they have a copy of the letter. If they do not have a copy, the child will be listed as absent.

Perry said the school system will also be providing temporary optional virtual programs for schools, grade levels and classrooms as cases spike in some areas.

He said the state severely limited the amount of virtual learning options this year, so the school system is limited on what it can do. He said these optional virtual classes will extend around seven days.

There will not be any district wide virtual shutdown at this time.

“We are not creating a district-wide virtual education option at this time because some schools have no cases at this point,” he said.

Perry said the school system will conduct a virtual community forum at 6 p.m. Aug. 30. The purpose of the forum will be to answer any questions the public may have concerning the school system changes.

The link for the forum will be posted next week and it will be live. The school system will also take questions through a chat feature. Perry asked that any parents or guardians email questions before the forum to webbk@hcboe.net.