Lenoir City High School has moved to virtual learning for the week due to COVID-19 concerns and plans to return to campus Monday.

The school closed its doors due to an increase in coronavirus cases among faculty and staff, Chip Orr, LCHS principal, said.

“It’s faculty and staff members that are out that’s causing the problem,” Orr said. “To the point where I’m awaiting test results for my son and my wife, so if they come back positive I’ll be quarantined. Two of my administrators have come back positive and my other assistant principal was around one of the ones that tested positive, so he’s quarantined. We’ve got a couple office staff members that have tested positive and two others who had to get tested and are awaiting results. We don’t have any administration and no front office staff at all right now. That kind of handcuffs us.”

As of Monday, Orr said there has not been a spike within the student population returning from the Thanksgiving holiday, but the probability of increases cases was discussed before leaving for break. Orr can only now “wait and see” if cases among students will increase.

“What’s funny is I kind of jokingly, but not jokingly, said earlier in the year what would put us out quicker than anything into a virtual setting would be if our office staff went down, and that’s exactly what happened. You just can’t function a school without those people,” he said.

Orr hopes the school will return to normal, in-person classes Monday, but the situation is being assessed daily. If an extension is needed, virtual learning could go on longer.

Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said only a week was needed for quarantining the staff affected because of the timing with the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The health guidelines indicate that people that are cases have 10 days to be out and 14 days if you’re contact,” Barker said. “Because the holidays were in there, that counts. We had the holidays and two weekends. We have one coming back on Dec. 3 and one coming back on Dec. 4. Then Dec. 7 we will have several people back. That’s how that process — it was due to the fact that we had been out already so many days, and one of the people that was positive had not been at school even the two days before Thanksgiving.”

LCHS was cleaned and sanitized thoroughly Monday, Barker said. Teachers will be allowed to return to school during the virtual learning week so they can access learning materials.

The school was on a hybrid learning schedule during the first grading period. Barker said this week of virtual learning is the first time the Continuous Learning Plan will be used to facilitate the seamless transition from in-person classes to virtual classes.

Sports and clubs shouldn’t be affected by the virtual week “unless they are having issues as well,” Barker said.

“It is counted as a school day, so that’s kind of different from other school closures that you have,” she said. “I spoke with the athletic director in concert with the coaches, and at this time we don’t have any coaches that are sick or any student athletes that I know of. Now, something may have happened today (Monday) that I don’t know of yet, but at this time they are healthy. I think it’s important to try to keep as much normalcy for our students and their mental health as we can. As long as people are healthy and following the guidelines then we will allow those things to happen.”