KINGSPORT — Because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases and after consultation with the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, Kingsport City Schools starting Tuesday is moving grades 6-12 from in-person learning five days a week to two days a week.
And because of teachers with COVID-19 unable to be in the classroom, neighboring Sullivan County Schools effective Tuesday is moving all sixth-grade Colonial Heights Middle School students to virtual until further notice.
Face-to-face KCS students in pre-K through grade 5 will continue with full in-person learning five days a week, KCS Assistant Superintendent Andy True said on Monday.
And aside from Colonial Heights, all other Sullivan County students in grades pre-K through 12 will continue going four days a week as previously approved by the county school board, Director of Schools David Cox said on Monday.
Exceptions are the virtual students in both systems.
KCS has its own COVID-19 Data Dashboard on its website, showing 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, while Sullivan County each Monday uploads its COVID-19 data to a Tennessee Department of Education website.
Sullivan students returned from fall break on Monday but are attending only four days a week, with Wednesdays being virtual except during four-day weeks.
The plan the county school board approved on Sept. 17 had been to move to five days a week on Oct. 19. However, the school board on Oct. 8 — after input from teachers citing the need for time to work with students who are behind and for classroom cleaning — decided to leave the virtual Wednesdays.
“We have to move all sixth-grade students at Colonial Heights Middle School because of the number of staff that had to quarantine,” Cox said on Monday.
In most cases, Cox said, non-teacher proctors are used in classrooms to allow quarantined teachers to be able to work remotely, but Cox said too many teachers are out at the sixth-grade level at the middle school for that to work.
True said the city’s move to hybrid learning, two days a week or usually Monday and Tuesday for Group A students and two days a week or usually Thursday and Friday for Group B students, came after city school officials met with health department folks last Thursday.
“We’re shifting back to hybrid for our middle school and high school students,” True said on Monday. Because Monday was an in-service day for teachers, in grades 6-12 Group A will attend in person on Tuesday and Wednesday and Group B on Thursday and Friday. Group A is students with names ending in A-J, while Group B is students with last names ending in K-Z.
“We meet with the health department every Thursday and have continued to do that,” True said. The school system notified parents Thursday of the change back to hybrid.
The city school system had about 23% of its students in the Remote Choice Learning, a virtual academy, but grades up to the fifth were allowed to switch from virtual to face-to-face or vice versa at the end of nine weeks. High school students will be allowed to shift effective the second semester, after the holiday break.
In Sullivan County, Cox said, about 28% of about 8,800 students are in one of two virtual plans, down from a high of about 35% virtual earlier in the school year. The deadline to switch in Sullivan also has passed until the spring semester.
Sullivan County and Bristol, Tennessee, school officials were in the Thursday meetings with county health department officials. Sullivan is one of six counties in Tennessee with a single health department; other counties, including surrounding ones, are in multi-county health department regions.
“Fifty-one percent of all the cases in Sullivan County as of Thursday were in the city of Kingsport. Seventeen percent were in the city of Bristol,” Cox said health officials told school officials last Thursday. Those are roughly the population percentages of those cities in relation to the countywide population.