School officials to decide on  continuing optional virtual learning

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said Monday that school administrators will decide mid-week on whether to continue with optional virtual learning.

“We will talk with our folks mid-week,” he said.

While numbers are starting to tick back up in Hamblen County, he said the number of active cases reported to the school system have decreased.

On Monday, he said there were a total of 38 active cases of students and staff.

“They’re as low as they’ve been in months,” he said.

Over the last two weeks, the Hamblen County school system has operated with an optional virtual learning model where they encouraged students to go online until Jan. 18.

Right now, several students have taken advantage of it.

“The vast majority of the kids at the high school and middle school are virtual,” he said.

Overall numbers are still going up in Hamblen County. The state reported Sunday that there were 872 active cases in the county and 96 deaths.

The positivity rate for the county is at 23.4%, well above the 10% threshold set by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Perry said there are still concerns about COVID-19 cases.

He pointed out the 38 active cases in the school system are just those they know about. There’s a possibility there could be more, but since the school system is mostly virtual it is hard to know.

“Some of those kids may have tested positive we don’t know about,” he said.

The highest number of active cases for the school system was 108, he said, on Dec. 22. Those decreased to 69 on Jan. 7 and to 38 on Monday.

But, he said the school system continues to be concerned.

“We don’t think that’s a permanent downward spiral,” Perry said.