Loudon County and Lenoir City school systems released Friday a joint update for fall reopening plans.

The districts until now have kept safety plans and protocols separate, but parent, teacher and community concerns saw a need for Mike Garren, Loudon County director of schools, and Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, to work together.

In the most recent update, students will begin attending school in staggered start dates based on the first letter of their last name.

Students whose last name begins with the letters A-G will attend Aug. 7. Students whose last name begins with the letters H-N will attend Aug. 10. Students whose last names begins with the letters O-Z will attend Aug. 11. All students will return to school campuses Aug. 12.

New procedures such as temperature checks and dismissals could cause chaos and confusion on a full campus. Having only one-third of the campus present mitigates some confusion, Garren said.

“That way we can be ready if we run into any issues on Friday with any of the procedures, we’ll have time to adjust those for Monday for the next third,” Garren said. “By the time Wednesday comes around, when all the kids come for the first day together, they’ll be used to the procedures, and the teachers will be used to the procedures, and that should make that a lot more manageable for students and staff.”

Barker said having a good plan in place is not enough. She wants to ensure the plan will be appropriately carried out.

“So we had conversation with the county schools director as well as conversations amongst our teams and decided that this would be something that would I think help parents feel more comfortable and teachers feel more comfortable knowing that we’re going to take time, and we’re going to teach all of the cleaning protocols that we have worked on in our opening plans,” Barker said. “That’s one of the things we feel real good about, our plans, but at the same time we’re going to be spending a lot of time training our students and teachers as to what we expect. So it will give us an opportunity to do that.”

Students will get the opportunity to learn new technology skills in the event virtual learning is deemed necessary at any time during the school year. Smaller groups also offer teachers a chance to get to know new students and build better relationships, Barker said.

Students will follow their regular schedules on the staggered days, she said.

For families with children who may not have the same last name and fall on different staggered days, Garren suggested parents reach out to principals to make accommodations.

“The whole purpose of this is to make things better for the opening day,” he said. “So we’re obviously not trying to complicate things, so issues like that can be resolved pretty easily if they just contact the principal.”