ROGERSVILLE — A plan approved by the Hawkins County Board of Education Wednesday doesn't assume the school year will begin on Aug. 4 with regular classroom instruction, but it does identify the phases that school leaders will work within in making that decision.

Director of Schools Matt Hixson presented the lengthy school opening plan to the BOE during a special called meeting Wednesday morning.

The 15-page plan can be seen in its entirety in the photo gallery section of the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.

“You will find three phases by which we will operate this year, depending upon COVID-19 active caseloads in our county and within our schools,” Hixson said. “Our regional health department office will work with all school systems regarding decisions to enter different phases. My staff and I will be in consistent communication with (parents and students) via our website and social media leading up to our opening day, Aug. 4.”

The three possible phases for school opening in fall 2020 are as follows:

Green phase: Schools remain open, operating as normal with general safety precautions in place. Hawkins County Schools will enlist parents and community in assisting with and ensuring student safety and health.

At this time, Hawkins County is in the green because it is below the threshold of 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of population over a 14-day period.

If Hawkins County exceeds that threshold it might enter the yellow phase, although Hixson noted that the 10 case “threshold” is not the only determining factor. He said it is one piece of the data administrators review weekly with the regional health office.

Yellow phase: Schools are eventually forced to alter educational models.

Hawkins County Schools would employ a remote/in-person hybrid learning scenario. Under the yellow phase, half of students would be brought into the classrooms Mondays and Tuesdays; all students would have classes remotely on Wednesdays to allow for deep cleaning of school facilities; and the remaining half of the student population would be brought to classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays.

Red phase: Schools close to students on campus, and there are subsequent school/community-based closures. In the event of school closures, Hawkins County Schools would employ its remote learning plan, consisting of all teachers teaching students remotely in live sessions where possible.

Hawkins County Schools received an update earlier this week from regional health director Dr. David Persky stating that all school opening policies should start with the goal of having students physically present in school.

“However, districts are encouraged to develop criteria for the consideration of closures of schools, and/or the entire district,” Persky stated. “Every effort should be made to prevent a district-wide closure, and district administrators should consider it appropriate to close one school, or even a portion of a school when a case, or even a small outbreak, affects only a small number of students of staff.”

Persky further stated, “District administrators are strongly encouraged to consult with state or local public health officials prior to finalizing a decision to close a school or district. It is critically important that schools be able to pivot from in-person to distance learning so that disruption can be minimized while students and staff need to be away from school for extended periods of time.”

Hixson noted that due to a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases the school system will be offering two virtual learning opportunities for any interested Hawkins County student.

“We are operating our Hawkins County Virtual Academy for the second year and have increased available spots from 40 to 150 students this year,” Hixson said. “We will also be offering an additional online program, new this year, to assist with those who may not feel safe attending school in-person.”

If students and/or parents are interested in either online program, they can access the following link and fill out the required information by August 1: https://forms.gle/WwnKiYG8FwhCbu3eA.

Once enrolled in either online program, students will be required to commit to a parent/student class aimed at virtual learning success and commit to a full semester in the online setting.