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Hixson: Should know by July 4 how 2020-21 Hawkins school year will open

Jeff Bobo • Jun 14, 2020 at 12:55 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson said Thursday he expects to announce no later than July 4 the selection of one of three potential options for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in August.

The 2020-21 school calendar approved by the Board of Education calls for students to return to the classroom on Aug. 4. But the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting school shutdown in March cast quite a bit of doubt on whether schools will be able to return to a normal classroom setting.

During the June 4 meeting, Hixson updated the Board of Education about potential $1.7 million in federal CARES Act funds to help the school system through the COVID-19 crisis.

Hixson said a substantial portion of that grant funding would likely be invested in technology to help deliver classroom lessons to students at home. 

On Thursday, Hixson outlined three potential options that are being planned at this time for the beginning of the school year.

1. Regular in-class model with health precautions in place.

2. Hybrid model, consisting of assigned student times to be on campus, reducing the number of students on campus at one time, if limited in-person contact is required.

3. Full virtual model, which will be used only in the event of a mandated shut down. That means 100% online/electronic instruction.

“As we head into a short summer break with renewed freedom to travel and interact a bit more, I wanted to inform you of plans we are making for re-entry into school this fall,” Hixson stated in a press release issued Thursday. “We know students need to be in school and it is our desire to open in August, as planned, as long as it is safe to do so. Please be assured that we are currently collaborating with our regional health experts and other school systems to research health and safety guidelines for both our students and staff as we develop our re-entry plan. Our goal is to announce our plan for reopening Hawkins County Schools no later than the week of July 4.”

Hixson added, “We will be involving administration, staff and parents in the development of these models. We are applying for our share of the CARES Act allocations for Hawkins County Schools. This will provide us the technological resources necessary for online learning, should we need to enact the hybrid or full virtual model in the future.”

During the June 4 BOE meeting, Hixson shared with the board that he isn't optimistic the next school year will begin on time without a hitch.

“I think we're going to see a spike over the summer,” Hixson said. “I think there's going to be recommendations that we do 'X, Y and Z' to keep students safe, and that's why we're developing alternative plans and getting the technology in place to enact that if we need to.”

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