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Fall 2020 Reopening Press Release

Sevier County School System Press Release
July 22, 2020

Dr. Jack A. Parton
Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Debra Ann Cline
Assistant Superintendent & Public Information Officer

The Sevier County Board of Education will hold a specially called workshop and meeting on Monday, July 27, 2020, to finalize plans for reopening school for the 2020-2021 school year. The workshop will begin at 3:00 p.m., and the meeting will follow at 4:30 p.m. In order to maintain compliance with currently active Executive Orders issued by state and local government, the workshop and meeting will be held in the auditorium at Sevier County High School. Anyone interested in attending will be required to wear a mask and be subject to a non-contact temperature screening prior to entering. Seating will be designated to maintain social distancing and the maximum attendance capacity will be 50 people. The workshop and meeting on July 27, 2020, will be livestreamed and the links are available here.

Tentative reopening plans, answers to frequently asked questions regarding school reopening, and all current board policies can be reviewed on the Sevier County School System website.

The school calendar originally released for the 2020-2021 school year has been adjusted. August 11, 12, 13, and 14 have been designated as training days for teachers and the first day for students will be staggered with students attending on either Monday, August 17, or Tuesday, August 18. Students with last names beginning with the letters A-L will attend on August 17. Students with last names beginning with the letters M-Z will attend on August 18. All students will attend on Wednesday, August 19. Parents who need to adjust the scheduled first day for their children (August 17 or 18) should call the school principal.

As you may know, the 2020-2021 school year will open with a Remote Learning Option in addition to traditional schooling in brick and mortar buildings. The Remote Learning Option is intended for those who are medically vulnerable, have a family member who is vulnerable, and for those who feel uncomfortable returning their children to school this fall. During periods of closure resulting from the pandemic, our entire student population may use the Remote Learning Option for a period of time as designated by Director of Schools Parton.

In grades 3-12, students participating in the Remote Learning Option will utilize teacher-prepared materials to complete a digital curriculum at home. All learning activities will be aligned to the Tennessee Academic Standards, and grades will be based on academic performance. Core academic courses will be available for all grade levels as well as activities for special areas and elective courses. Students will be engaged in assignments, videos, activities, and periodic interactions with teachers for a full school day. The expectations and rigor will mirror in-person instruction. Students in grades K-2 will engage in remote learning through paper-based learning packets and other materials with parental assistance. Attendance, time-on-task, grading, and accountability will be the same in the Remote Learning Option as for those who are learning in traditional classrooms.

Within the Remote Learning Option, teachers will provide a variety of assessments to determine student mastery of the course content. Grading scales will be applied as approved by the Sevier County Board of Education. Students participating in the Remote Learning Option will still be expected to take all state exams associated with their grade level or chosen course work on campus at times scheduled by the school within the required testing windows.

Parents who have expressed an interest in the Remote Learning Option will complete enrollment forms at their child’s traditionally assigned school during orientation sessions. Administrators at each school building will contact parents/guardians via phone or email prior to the start of school to share information regarding these registration/orientation sessions. During these sessions, parents and students participating in the Remote Learning Option will sign a contract that outlines the requirements and expectations for the program, discuss technical requirements, and receive Chromebooks.

For students in grades 3-12, reliable internet access is required in order to participate in remote learning, and a district-issued device will be available for each student. The Sevier County School System will provide external WiFi access points in designated school parking lots for those with limited Internet access to utilize after school hours.

Families who opt to participate in remote learning may change their selected instructional model (traditional or remote) during the open enrollment period at the beginning of each semester.

Students eligible for special education services who opt for remote learning will receive instruction guided by an individualized education program (IEP). Because remote learning may affect how special education and related services are provided, the student’s IEP team will work to ensure that the student receives services to the most appropriate extent possible.

Students needing ESL, Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI), and/or 504 accommodations and services will receive them through either on-site or remote instruction, according to state and federal guidelines.

Bus transportation will provide some challenges this fall; however, the Sevier County School System remains committed to providing transportation to and from school for our students. Parents who can transport their children to and from school are encouraged to do so. We intend to make reasonable adjustments to help alleviate crowding; however, we know that providing six feet of space for every student on our buses is neither practicable nor achievable at all times under current conditions.

Students will be expected to utilize social distancing at bus stops and when loading at schools where space permits. Drivers will place one student per seat where possible, though larger routes may require doubling up. Riders who live in the same household will be asked to sit together to conserve space.

Parents will be asked to screen students for temperature and other potential symptoms of COVID-19 prior to sending them to the bus stop. Those with fever or other symptoms should not attend school. Each student will be screened through a temperature check at school; therefore, home screening will prevent parents from undergoing the inconvenience of having to drive to school to pick up their child.

Due to the physical proximity of students inside the bus, it is our expectation that students wear masks while aboard the bus as social distancing can not always be provided. The system will provide students with a number of washable and reusable cloth masks. Drivers and attendants will wear masks and other appropriate PPE for student protection and to model best practices. High touch areas will be sanitized after each bus run and hand sanitizer will be made available to students on the bus.

We will continue to make every effort to provide a healthy and safe environment for students in which to learn and grow. Each student and adult will be screened for temperature upon their entrance into our school buildings, and procedures will be in place to transition students back into the care of their parents when they are sick. As previously stated, students will wear masks while riding the bus to and from school. Students and staff will also wear masks during entry to and exit from the school building, in common areas where social distancing is not possible and in classroom activities where social distancing is not possible. In situations where masks are expected, the district will provide a reusable cloth mask (to be washed at home) at the beginning of the school year. Both students and staff will be provided with lanyards to secure masks during times when they are not being used.

It will also be necessary to limit the number of nonessential visits to our schools. Parents and essential visitors will be expected to wear a cloth/disposable mask or face covering and undergo temperature screenings while visiting the building.

Working together as an educational family, we will provide a safe environment in which students can learn and grow. The choice between the Remote Learning Option and traditional schooling is one that families will make based on what they consider to be in the best interest of their children. The Sevier County School System remains committed to providing a teaching and learning environment that meets the needs of its students whether we work with them at school or at home. Individuals with questions about the options available should refer those to their school principal or to Mr. Tony Ogle (tonyogle@sevier.org).