KINGSPORT — When Kingsport City Schools goes back to hybrid in-person learning on Jan. 19 in grades 6-12, Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said the plan is to have Group A students go on Mondays and Thursdays and Group B on Tuesdays and Fridays.

All students will be virtual on Wednesdays.

And when vaccinations for COVID-19 are available for teachers and other staff, the superintendent said a survey has shown 90% plan to take the vaccine. Moorhouse said he is proud employees plan to protect themselves, each other and the students.

WHY THE HYBRID TWEAK?

Under the old hybrid system, Group A students were on campus Monday and Tuesday and Group B students Thursday and Friday. Moorhouse said at Tuesday’s school board meeting, held virtually, that schedule left too much time between in-person interactions among students and teachers.

Students in all-virtual mode would continue that way Jan. 19 since the resumption of in-person learning affects only face-to-face students. Grades pre-k through 5 would return to full in-person learning, except those who are all virtual.

In votes during Tuesday’s meeting, the board decided:

• 3-2 to approve professional services agreements with Barge Design Solutions to design a pre-K Johnson Elementary School playground addition and a complete Lincoln Elementary playground redo. President Jim Welch, Eric Hyche and interim board member Tim Dean voted yes, while Todd Golden and board Vice President Julie Byers voted no.

The Johnson playground design is to cost up to $23,360 and the Lincoln design $27,630. The Johnson playground’s estimated cost is $150,000 to $200,000 and the Lincoln one about $500,000. Johnson’s parent-teacher organization raised $50,000 toward the project and Lincoln’s parent-teacher association just more than $50,000.

Byers said her concern is how equitable it will be eventually to fund playground projects at all elementary schools, although Welch said he considers playgrounds an essential part of elementary schools. Johnson and the community raised money for the “Castle Playground” there, a de facto community playground in addition to a school one.

Other actions

• 5-0 to accept $1,439.11 Teacher Focus Grants for three teachers from the Kingsport City Schools Education Foundation, a proposal previously reported;

• 5-0 to spend up to $30,000 and $15,000 for separate professional services agreements with Holston Engineering Inc. for a cooling tower replacement at Dobyns-Bennett High School projected to cost $550,000 to $600,000 and replacement of two electrical switch gears projected to cost $450,000 to $500,000. Chief Finance Officer David Frye gave the estimated costs.

• 5-0 to suspend board policy requiring end-of-course or final grades in high school classes to be 15% of the final grade, with that only included in the final grade if it improved it. Moorhouse said the school system is looking a tgrades for the fall of 2021 compared to the fall of 2020 to make a recommendation for further board action on grades.

• 5-0 to continue emergency paid leave for employees as if the COVID-19 Families First Coronavirus Relief Act or FFCRA were still in effect. It expired Dec. 31, but governments and localities are allowed to extend it until at least March 31, which the school board did.

Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Guthrie said more then 300 employees have used the program so far and it provided up to 10 days paid leave for those with COVID-19 or quarantined and two-thirds pay for those caring for someone with the novel coronavirus. An extension of another 10 weeks is allowed at two-thirds pay in either instance, she said.

The board’s next meeting is a work session 6 p.m. Jan. 26, but Welch said a called meeting may be held before the work session.