Lenoir City Schools experienced its first major obstacle of the new year after positive cases of COVID-19 forced Lenoir City High School to halt in-person learning through at least Wednesday.
LCHS representatives posted on social media late Sunday there would be no in-person classes Monday. Students were advised to check Canvas and email for at-home learning expectations and assignments from teachers.
The school followed Tuesday by canceling in-person classes through Wednesday.
“We want our students in school, so we are taking two more days — Tuesday, Aug. 25, and Wednesday, Aug. 26, to allow students in grades 8-12 to learn ‘at home’ or virtually so that we can prepare plans to further social distance students in classrooms, lunch rooms, hallways and buses,” Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said in an email correspondence.
Hopes are for classes to resume Thursday, she said.
With the uncertainties of how COVID-19 would impact in-person classes, educators have stressed getting students and teachers accustomed to remote learning.
“That’s one of the reasons we were comfortable doing it is because we knew that we had some plans in place,” Chip Orr, LCHS principal, said. “We’ll see how well it works, but we were confident in the plan that we put together that we can do this if we need to.”
Orr said the school learned of five positive cases Friday and another Sunday.
More than 100 students could have been affected, he said.
“When we found out that there were five of them on Friday, there was an extensive amount of work that needed to be done in order to do contact tracing,” Orr said. “... What we do is obviously contact every student who was in close contact with one of those positive cases. We sent out emails to all the teachers so that they know that every student who’s been quarantined will be quarantined until what date so that they know to provide them with their academic work via Canvas and that sort of thing. So there’s just a lot that is just very time consuming, so that played a part in it.
“When we got the other one on (Sunday), we didn’t know that we would have sufficient time to call everyone that needed to be contacted, so that was the reason that led up to the decision,” he added. “By (Sunday) our nurses had contacted everybody they needed to based on the cases that we know about Friday.”
Barker said any student asked to quarantine will not be able to participate in Friday’s Battle of the Bridge football game against Loudon High School. As of Tuesday morning, the game is still scheduled.
“Right now we are looking to see what athletes are involved, but if we have any athletes involved they will not play,” Barker said. “We are hopeful to try to keep some normalcy in the students’ lives. So we want band to continue, we want athletes, we want clubs. We want all of those things that kids look forward to coming to school for to continue. It’s just maybe those students that are involved in quarantining or whatever will not be participating.”
Custodial staff cleaned the building Friday night, Orr said.
“I know that they fogged everything,” he said. “The stuff that we’ve got basically kills pretty much anything.”
The system has so far seen a combined eight positive cases, Barker said.
“We have been in school over two weeks, and up until Friday, Aug. 21, we had no positives in our schools,” she said in an email correspondence. “I am very pleased with the healthy habits that our students, teachers, staff, custodians, bus drivers and maintenance teams have implemented. Our district is following the strict guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health. We have been adhering to facial coverings, cleaning nightly, disinfecting nightly, hand washing and sanitizing and trying to social distance. The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics says students need to be in school, and we agree. However, we also know that this virus is out in the general public and in areas that are a part of all of our lives.”
Loudon County Schools has also dealt with COVID-19 positive cases.
Michael Garren, county director of schools, said as of Monday a combined 10 cases have been confirmed since school started earlier this month. Steekee Elementary School has had no positive cases.
“We’ve had 56 close contacts that have had to quarantine because of our positive cases,” Garren said in an email correspondence. “These students have the opportunity to receive instruction remotely while not in school.”
Garren said the county district has been fortunate.
“To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect regarding number of cases, but in comparison with other districts we have had to quarantine a relatively small number of students,” he said. “The procedures that the school administrative teams have in place are working well for us at this time.”