A1 A1
Sullivan, Kingsport schools still plan return to in-person learning Jan. 19



Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools are scheduled to resume in-person learning Tuesday, Jan. 19, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But like school schedules continually upended in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials of both systems said those plans could change. Some other systems already have extended their all-virtual operations into February.


In Kingsport, Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said that unless plans are changed before then, all students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will return to in-person learning Jan. 19, except for those who previously opted to be virtual.

Further, he said grades 6-12 students will return to in-person learning on a hybrid schedule, although exact details of that haven’t been finalized. The immediate past operation has seen in-person students with last names starting with the letters A-J go Monday and Tuesday and those with last names starting with K-Z go Thursday and Friday, with all students virtual Wednesday.

“KCS is continuing to evaluate the specific hybrid model to be used when students return. Information about what days students will attend school in-person will be communicated as soon as that decision is made,” True said.

In addition, because the week of Jan. 18-22 is a four-day school week because of the King holiday, “there will be no Wednesday virtual learning day that week (on Jan. 20),” True wrote in an email to parents.

“As we have done throughout the past many months, we will continue to monitor the state of health in our schools and community and any adjustments to our operating schedule will be communicated as soon as possible,” True said in the email, which came out the evening after the weekly afternoon meeting Kingsport, Bristol, Tennessee, and Sullivan school leaders had with Sullivan County Regional Health Department officials.

“Please be aware that KCS will continue to offer free meal delivery for all children age 18 and under while we are in a period of virtual instruction. Look for KCS buses on all regular bus routes on virtual school days and take advantage of this free opportunity,” True said.


In Sullivan County, Director of Schools David Cox said the plan is still for in-person instruction to resume on Jan. 19 for students unless they have opted for virtual instruction.

However, at Thursday night’s school board meeting, he told the board a meeting may be called before then if the weekly meeting with health officials and COVID-19 information warrant consideration of continuing all-virtual operations.

“The only change to that would be if we had a meeting where the board took action to change it,” Cox said.

Among public commenters on the issue Thursday night, one parent said she wants an option for students and parents who want to return to in-person learning as soon as possible, while a parent who emailed a comment urged the school system to continue the all-virtual learning until the COVID-19 spikes subside.

In Sullivan County, in-person students at all grade levels are to return Jan. 19 with no hybrid or staggered scheduling.

Thanks for the memorabilia: South band items available in exchange for donations


KINGSPORT — If you’d like a piece of Sullivan South High School Rebel Band history, now’s your chance.

Since this is the last year of South High, which will cease to exist in May and be rezoned into the new West Ridge High School with Sullivan North and Sullivan Central.

South band booster Vicky Pinto said memorabilia, including framed T-shirts, framed marching uniforms, trophies, plaques and photographs, must find a new home.

“We have to get rid of all memorabilia,” Pinto wrote in a news release. “So, if you would like a piece of the Sullivan South Band as a memory of all the good times in the Rebel Band, here is your chance. Items not sold will be disposed, there is no plan to retain any of the items.”

Photos of all items are in a Google folder. Trophies are organized by year, and there are separate folders for plaques, shadowboxes and uniforms. Each item has an item number associated with it and is listed in a memorabilia spreadsheet. The link to the Google folder is https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1yUWAHxK3KJI0SQOP-FjQQvTTScOrQl5p?usp=sharing.

“At this point, we are asking for a donation for any of the item(s) that you may want,” Pinto wrote. “To obtain an item, you must send an email to SSHSFundraising@gmail.com specifying the item description, item number, phone number and amount of donation. We will set pickup date(s) and notify you.”

She said all items must be picked up and paid for by April 15, 2021. If not paid for, items will be disposed of in May. Payment can be made via the band’s PayPal account at www.paypal.me/southrebelband.

Also, if your name was ever on a Band Perpetual Plaque, you can have your name plate off of it. Please contact South Band Director Heath Hopper, also the new director of West Ridge, at heath.hopper@sullivank12.net to set up getting your name plate, Pinto said.

Five new COVID-19 deaths, 374 new cases reported in Northeast Tennessee


The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report, for Saturday, Jan. 9:


• 86 new deaths and 5,844 new cases.

• Pandemic totals are 7,704 deaths and 646,450 cases.

• 87% of case totals were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

• New deaths by age: 28 in the 81-plus group; 31 in the 71-80 group; 17 in the 61-70 group; eight in the 51-60 group; and two in the 41-50 group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Five new deaths and 374 new cases for the eight-county region.

• New deaths by county: three in Washington; one in Carter; and one in Greene.

• New cases by county: 136 in Sullivan; 78 in Washington; 61 in Greene; 42 in Hawkins; 35 in Carter: eight in Unicoi; eight in Hancock; and six in Johnson.

• Active cases by county: 1,372 in Washington; 1,358 in Sullivan; 859 in Greene; 635 in Hawkins; 563 in Carter; 171 in Unicoi; 144 in Johnson; and 55 in Hancock.

Positive rates

• Statewide: 18.16% of the 32,100 new test results reported on Saturday by the TDH.

• Ballad Health: 34.6% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

COVID-19 in SWVA: LENOWISCO daily cases pass 150


The LENOWISCO Health District reported more than 150 new COVID-19 cases as well as three more deaths, according to Saturday’s state data.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the district reported 157 COVID-19-related cases and three related deaths for totals of 5,594 and 137 deaths during the pandemic.

Lee County saw 77 cases for totals of 1,746 and 32 deaths. Wise County had 50 cases and one death for 2,339 and 65 deaths.

Scott County had 20 cases and two deaths for 1,327 and 39 deaths. Norton saw its second straight 10-case daily increase for 202 and one death.

The VDH reported 5,798 new cases and 69 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 393,715 cases and 5,381 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Saturday’s VDH report was 5,494,313 of 8.63 million residents, or 63.67%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,537,960 people have been tested to date, or 52.58%. In the LENOWISCO district, 34,453 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 39.84%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Saturday’s report decreased from 28.3% to 25.8%. The statewide seven-day positivity rate dropped from 16.8% to 16.7%.

One new COVID-19 outbreak was reported Saturday in an unidentified corrections setting in the LENOWISCO Health District, according to the VDH. That brings the district’s total outbreaks to 45.

Red Onion State Prison had 27 inmate cases and decreased one case to 10 active staff/contractor cases Saturday, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at one inmate case and added a case for 11 active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor cases.

According to Saturday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, daily case incidence in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — was ranked as fluctuating after a 12-day increase in daily case rates. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results was classed as fluctuating based on an overall eight-day decrease in that measure.

All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. For seven-day case incidence, Lee County and Norton City schools were ranked highest-risk with Wise and Scott counties schools higher-risk.

Where to be tested

Do you think you might have COVID-19? Local health departments provide free testing.

The LENOWISCO Health Department, which covers Norton and Lee, Wise and Scott counties, posts regular updates on testing sites across the district and offers free COVID-19 tests at its county offices. Those seeking a test must call in advance for an appointment. Contact numbers for the county offices are:

• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011

• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312

• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000

Additional testing and COVID-19 precaution information can be found at the LENOWISCO Health District’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Lenowisco.

In Southwest Virginia, online resources are available to help evaluate whether residents might be infected and where to get a COVID-19 test. The Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDCHECK (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/) can walk a user through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.