Perry: COVID  protocols  established in May will be followed

The Hamblen County School Board took no action Tuesday night during its regularly-scheduled meeting regarding mask mandates in front of a packed crowd in the Heritage Room of the schools building.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, told the crowd that masks mandates were not on the agenda and he didn’t expect it to be a topic of discussion at the meeting.

No school board members made any motions to place masks on the agenda.

“The bottom line is we make no changes until the board makes the change,” Perry said.

Perry stressed that the protocols established back in May would be followed. Those protocols call for masking to be optional and not mandated.

Perry said if there are any changes made, there would be a community forum called first. He said there could also be a special session for the board called later if necessary, if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“We’re not doing a mask mandate,” Perry said. “It’s not on the agenda. It’s not on the table. I know some people will be happy with that. Some people will not.”

He said on Monday there were more than 60 students who are active cases and six staff members with active cases.

“Right now, we’re just taking it like any other illness when people have to be out,” he said.

He said he believes about 70% of staff members are vaccinated.

Virtual learning is not on the table this school year, so he said staff members are busy trying to find an alternative for sick students.

Perry also updated the board on the possible selection of a new site for a new Lincoln Elementary School.

Perry presented a plan to the Hamblen County Commission on Monday night to build a new school near the Morristown Utilities building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. He said the cost of the project is estimated to be around $26 million with the county covering $22 million and the school system front the rest through federal funds.

The Education Committee of the commission approved the expenditure Monday night and the full commission will vote on approval next week during its regularly scheduled meeting.

Perry told the board that it would likely have to approve its own resolution in support at the next school board meeting.

The hope is that construction on the school begins in the spring. Once completed, it will house around 600 students on a 32-acre piece of property with the capability of being able to expand if needed.

Perry did say there were some concerns about soil in the area and also access to the school from state Route 160.

He said there would be a soil test conducted before purchasing to make sure the ground is suitable for a large facility, such as a school.