Perry:  Community forum called for tonight

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said he is calling a community forum tonight at 5 p.m. in the East High School auditorium to address the issue of students wearing masks in schools until the end of the school year.

Perry said in a press release that he believes students who are in-person in school should continue to wear a mask until the end of the school year.

“By Friday, we would have only 20 days of school left and we need to do everything to keep our staff and students safe,” he said.

He said in the press release that, during summer school, mask wearing will be optional and the intent is by the start of next school year masks would not be worn as long as COVID-19 rates remain low.

He said masks can be removed for outdoor events, such as athletics.

Perry said he is looking to receive feedback from the community prior to next week’s school board meeting. He said he knows there are many parents wishing to speak on the mask issue, so the school board meeting will also be held in the East High School auditorium.

“Our case count is down, and we have a large number of our staff members vaccinated, so things are improving,” Perry said. “However, I do not think the pandemic is over because there are still a number of cases within our community and we are still experiencing some virus-related deaths. We need to remain vigilant to keep everyone safe.”

Perry also noted that anyone who wishes to speak at Monday’s board meeting will have to contact the school system by the end of the day today to get placed upon the agenda.

Speakers will have five minutes each to speak on an issue. He also acknowledged that during the meeting, school board members do not traditionally respond.

During the board meeting, Perry said he plans to recommend that masks continue to be worn throughout the rest of the school year, masks be optional in summer school, anyone outside will not be required to wear a mask during outdoor activities, staff members who are fully vaccinated can remove their mask when meeting with other staff members who are vaccinated and the allotment of graduation tickets be moved to eight instead of four.

For those wishing to address the board Monday, please email Karlene Webb at webbk@hcboe.net or call 423-581-3101.