Cocke County School Board approves staffered school starts

The Cocke County School Board meeting Thursday approved a staggered start for county schools.

Assistant Director of Schools Casey Kelley presented a proposal for opening schools, saying administrators had spent a lot of time exploring the options for an opening to best meet the needs of the students while maintaining a safe environment.

“We’ve got to teach everybody how to be different in education right now, and part of that is to teach students how to be a ‘COVID Kid learner.’ “

The modified calendar, which the school board approved, does not change the fall, spring, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

It is impossible to social distance in cafeterias and on school buses, Kelley said, but he argued to make all feasible accommodations to minimize the spread of the virus. That is done, he said, by teaching children and teachers what is necessary and also by educating parents on how they can help.

Kelley said the procedure would be impossible to implement if all 4,500 students were brought back at one time.

Elementary students will be brought back on three different days beginning Aug. 3. On that day only one-third of a teacher’s class will come to school, along with ninth graders. There also will be curbside pickup of distance learning material, and the information also will be delivered by bus drivers as they pick up students on their bus route.

On Aug. 4, another one-third of elementary students will go to school, along with tenth graders, and on Aug. 5 the last third of elementary students will go to school along with eleventh and twelfth grade students.

Kelley said kindergarten students will start school at a later date. An effort will be made to have all elementary students in a particular family begin school on the same day.

“If we determine we need to continue staggering the class schedule, we will make that decision on Friday, Aug. 7, for the school week of Aug. 10. We would like to start school on Aug. 10 with all of our students.”

During the initial teacher in-service days in late July, teachers will be taught safety protocols, distance learning, and tabletop exercises.