Perry: School officials  monitoring rising  numbers

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said graduations, proms and school reopening are still on schedule as numbers of those infected with COVID-19 continue to climb in Hamblen County.

Perry announced a detailed reopening plan last week and said graduations and proms will still be held, though different than normal.

He said he does feel the weight of his decisions on the safety of students and those in the community.

“Each time we look at those numbers, it concerns us more and more,” he said.

The state did not release COVID-19 numbers on Sunday due to a shutdown of the state’s data system.

On Saturday, there were a total of 191 who tested positive in Hamblen County since the outbreak began and 119 recoveries. There are a total of 62 active cases in the county.

Graduations for East High School and West High School are set for 8 p.m. Thursday, July 23 and 8 p.m. Friday, July 24 at Burke-Toney Stadium. Proms for both schools will be held in the school gyms on July 25.

“Graduation will be a voluntary ceremony,” Perry said.

Those who do not attend will still get their graduation certificate if they met state requirements.

The school system has a plan for social distancing for the ceremonies both for students and families. He said based upon how the numbers continue there could be some modifications to the plans.

He said the proms, though, will not be the same as in the past.

“The proms will be very, very different than the normal prom,” he said.

He said there is more to a prom than just coming to school. He said it is an opportunity for students to get dressed up and maybe also go out to eat.

Perry said the proms will be more about an opportunity for students to get photos taken. He said there could also be a plan for small groups of students to come in and hang out.

As far as school reopening, plans are still on track and the school system is still giving options to those students who wish to do online learning instead of coming to school. Registration started last week and he said he is encouraging parents to do so as soon as possible so the school system can start looking at staffing levels.

The deadline could be a moving target, though.

“It could go on all the way to school reopening,” he said.

School is set to come back on July 31.

He said there is no “magic number” on what could close schools or delay reopening.

Perry said he would lean heavily on the advice of the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force and if Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee takes steps asking schools to close they would honor that request.

“These are unchartered times...” Perry said. “There is no answer that is right or wrong right.