Loudon County Board of Education unanimously approved COVID-19 financial relief for staff.

Board members Lisa Harvey and Kenny Ridings motioned and seconded, respectively, the measure, which passed 8-0 during the Sept. 9 regular monthly meeting. Board members Scott Newman and William Jenkins were absent.

Retroactive to the start of school year, the decision gives employees up to 10 paid days if they test positive for COVID-19. Staff will receive regular pay for those days rather than having to use sick leave. The policy will apply to full- and part-time employees regardless of vaccination status.

“COVID relief is big for our staff,” Mike Garren, director of schools, said.

Garren recommended the approach during a Sept. 2 board workshop. Classes began Aug. 9, and Garren said 10-12 teachers had tested positive for COVID in a month. Six more staff members tested positive in the first week of September, bringing the total to about 18.

Teachers normally build up 10 sick days per year, but a few new teachers with no sick leave have tested positive and were forced to use unpaid leave, Garren said.

Some school districts in Tennessee, including Anderson County and Metro Nashville, are providing staff additional paid sick days for COVID-related reasons, although Nashville is providing the leave only to employees who have been vaccinated.

Loudon County, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, has successfully kept COVID-19 cases low compared to other districts in the region.

“So far we’re operating pretty well,” Garren said.

There were 15 active COVID-19 cases in the first full week of school. The numbers increased to 26 active cases in the second week, 44 cases the third week and 51 the fourth week.

Active cases dropped to 40 the fifth week. “Right now, there is a decline,” Garren said.

The number of active cases remains less than 1% of the district’s 5,000 students in nine schools.

Garren told board members the district isolates positive COVID-19 cases, traces the person’s contacts and notifies parents by telephone. Loudon County Health Department determines whether someone has been a close contact of a person who is infected, he said.

Leaders reappointedBoard members unanimously agreed to re-elect Bobby Johnson Jr. to a one-year term as chair and Kenny Ridings to a one-year term as vice chair.

The school board appoints members as chair and vice chair each September.

Board members Zack Cusick and Lisa Harvey motioned and seconded, respectively, to reappoint Johnson. Harvey and board member Kenneth Presley motioned and seconded, respectively, in favor of Ridings.

“I like working with the kids,” Johnson said.

He said the current 10-member board has worked together well.

“The board has done a great job supporting the school system,” Garren said.

Ridings fills in as chair when Johnson is not available. “We don’t skip a beat,” Johnson said.

In other business, the Loudon County Board of Education:

• Approved a list of 24 policy updates on second reading ranging from emergency closings and security to testing programs and teacher tenure.

• Approved Dan Cummings as an unpaid elementary school basketball coach at Greenback Public School and Travis Ganong as a paid assistant boys basketball coach at North Middle School.

• Approved a $83,610 Safe Schools Grant that will primarily be used to replace security cameras and give some money to the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Garren said. LCSO can use the funds to cover the cost of having deputies work at extracurricular school activities. A $17,000 Civics Seal Grant will be used by schools trying to take a trip to visit state government in the Nashville capital, bring in speakers and purchase supplementary civics materials, Garren said.