Hamblen School board approves reopening plan

Special to the Citizen Tribune

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, left, receives an award from Dr. Dale Lynch, executive director of Tennessee Organization of School Supervisors, for Supervisor of the Year for Region 1.

The Hamblen County school board approved a reopening plan Tuesday night and a resolution authorizing the use of $200,000 given from the county to buy school buses.

But, Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, warned there is still uncertainty in the future as the school system continues to see COVID-19 case rise in the county.

Before the school board adjourned, Perry told board members that if school closes there may be a certain number of employees that they should make contingency plans for as far as pay.

“We need to have a plan in place to be fair to everybody,” Perry said. “Are we going to pay you for the entire time? Or are we going to pay you for a certain amount of time then it will have to stop.”

Perry said teachers and guidance counselors would be fine because they would still be working and have contracts throughout the year. Those at risk would be teachers assistants, bus drivers, maintenance and cafeteria workers, he said.

He said when school closed in March until the end of the school year, all those within the school system were paid. But, he said there needs to be some discussion.

Board members asked him how much that payroll would be. Perry said he did not have specific numbers, but a rough estimate of how much the school system would pay these workers would be around $1 million a week. He said he would have specific numbers later.

No votes were taken, but the board will talk more about the issue during the August board meeting.

“Last year, we were able to do that because there was a promise from the federal government to help supplement that,” he said.

He said right now there is no talk of any type of a federal bailout for school systems at this time.

Perry also found himself honored by a former Hamblen County school superintendent. Dr. Dale Lynch, executive director for the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, was on hand to present Perry with an award as Supervisor of the Year for Region 1, which makes up northeast Tennessee.

Lynch said Hamblen County was his home and would be for a long time. He also acknowledged how quickly Perry won the award after coming to Tennessee from Virginia almost two-and-a-half years ago.

Perry said it was the result of the support of those around him from school staff to his wife.

“Anything we do is a direct result from the people behind us and we have got some of the best people in the world right here,” Perry said.

The school board approved the school systems reopening plan 6-0 with school board member Janice Haun passing on voting.

A change had been made to the plan in one section after lawyers suggested some changes.

Haun asked for a few more days to read over the changes, but board members said they felt comfortable with proceeding ahead and if there needed to be any more changes made that could happen at a later date.

The board also approved unanimously receiving county money as part of a one-time expenditure. The $200,000 from the county will be used to buy buses. Perry told the County Commission on Monday that buses generally cost around $100,000 each.