ROGERSVILLE — With new COVID-19 cases on the decline, the Hawkins School System will return to a traditional five-day-per-week schedule beginning Monday, March 1.

Over the past seven days, Hawkins County has reported 97 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. That’s a steep decrease compared to the December and January spike when the county topped 97 new cases on a single day three times.

During a seven-day period last month, Hawkins County had 379 new COVID-19 cases.

Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News that the county school system is currently experiencing very few quarantines due to illness brought into the schools.

“We believe now is the right time to bring students back to class five days a week,” Hixson said. “COVID numbers, including quarantines, are down in the region and more importantly, throughout our schools.”

Hixson added, “Even though we are starting five-day weeks on March 1, we have had students on campus five days per week since October. Friday’s have been remedial — small group and one-on-one help for students who need assistance. The COVID numbers have been really low. The only times we have needed to shift to virtual were due to not having enough staff to cover.”

Hixson noted that the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reduced quarantines.

“Basically that allows for those who have been vaccinated to remain at work unless certain conditions or criteria are present,” Hixson said. “Since we’ve had numerous staff vaccinated, we should see a reduction in quarantines resulting from exposure to positive cases.”

As of last Wednesday, the independent K-8 Rogersville City School had completed the conversion back to four days per week full time in-classroom for all students, with Fridays set aside for in-school instruction for students who are struggling and in need of focused instruction.

RCS had previously been doing a two days on, two days off virtual schedule for older students, with Fridays set aside for either virtual or in-school special instruction depending on a student’s needs.

Superintendent J.T. Stroder noted that faculty and student quarantines at RCS have been less of a factor lately, “but that could change on a moment’s notice.”