(Ed. note: This story was first published in the July 2 print edition of The Courier. You can help support the vital mission of community journalism by subscribing at https://rb.gy/69sicq.)
Hardin County Director of Schools Michael Davis last week detailed preliminary plans for county schools to reopen on Monday, Aug. 3.
“We’re going to need all parents to come together and work with us on this. I understand the hardships this may cause, and believe me – we’re doing everything we can to provide for the education of every child in Hardin County, as well as their, our teachers’ and other employees’, and our students’ and employees’ families’ health and safety as we try to get through this,” Davis said.
He added, “But this isn’t going to be easy. Things are going to be very different this year, and there are no quick, easy answers or solutions. We have to all work together or it just won’t work.”
Because of the ongoing threat to public health, the Tennessee Department of Education is requiring all school districts to create a Comprehensive Learning Plan. The goal of the CLP is to have at least 6.5 hours of standards-based instruction time per regular school day for each student, monitor attendance, and follow safety and social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These plans are required to address all aspects of the school system, from students to teachers and other school employees, as well as transportation, meals and extracurricular activities. The CLPs are required to be submitted to the state education department by each school district by July 24 for approval.
Like several other similarly-situated rural school districts in west Tennessee, Hardin County Schools is opting for a hybrid method this year, where parents who want their student to physically attend school can choose that option, while others have the option to choose distance learning – a form of home schooling organized and monitored by HCS.
“We have been meeting on a regular basis throughout the summer to create our school system’s plan to reopen. From the recent survey we completed, the majority of parents indicated they’d prefer a traditional schedule, with their child physically attending school. Some have said they intend to keep their kids home, which is fine, but everyone needs to know there are other considerations,” Davis said.
Distance learning option
Parents should note that much of the final planning for CLPS depends on how many parents choose each option. HCS asks that parents opting for distance learning notify the school district by July 10 and agree to a commitment of one semester.
Parents will have the opportunity to make a change for their child to attend school if they wish during the semester break.
Hardin County Schools has ordered new laptops for all students in grades 3-12, but the school system has been told it will be late November before they arrive. Any parent choosing the distance learning option will need their own device for their student until the school-supplied computers are distributed.
For parents who choose the distance learning option, Davis said the option is available for all Hardin County residents and there will be no fees associated with this program.
Parents who have previously home schooled their children can participate in this new option, but must register their child with HCS first.
All parents selecting the distance learning option are asked to complete a registration form which can be found on the HCS website at www.hardincoschools.com or the Hardin County Schools Facebook page.
Paper copies of the registration form are available at the Board of Education office.
Physical attendance at school
For parents who prefer that their student physically attend school, the plan is to reopen schools as scheduled on Monday, Aug. 3.
Officials say Hardin County schools will be enacting procedures for keeping children separated throughout the school day, practicing healthy hygiene and sanitizing surfaces and equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
All Hardin County schools will be on a modified schedule the first week to allow extra time for students to meet with their teachers, discuss the safety measures, and answer questions students may have.
The following is the schedule for the first week:
•Monday, Aug. 3 – only grades 5, 8, and 12 will attend
•Tuesday, Aug. 4 – only grades 4, 7, and 11 will attend
•Wednesday, Aug. 5 – only grades 3, 7, and 10 will attend
•Thursday, Aug. 6 – only grades 2, 6, and 9 will attend
•Friday, Aug. 7 – only grades 1, 6, and 9 will attend
•Monday, Aug. 10 – grades 1-12 attend
Regarding extracurricular activities, regardless whether a student attend schools or chooses the distance learning option, all students are eligible for all extra-curricular activities. Students will be eligible if they meet all attendance and academic requirements, and this includes all elementary, middle, and high school students.
It is also HCS’ plan to provide special education services at the beginning of the school year, as dictated by the child’s Individual Education Plan.
“We assure parents that we will work with them and provide the level of support that is appropriate,” Davis said.
The school system continues to participate in the Community Eligibility Program meal program, where every student enrolled in the school system has a free breakfast and lunch. Schools will be making a number of changes to their current food service programs, in order to comply with health recommendations, so that all food can be served in a safe manner.
As for busing, the plan is to provide transportation as normal. All buses will be disinfected after each route, according to school officials. Parents can decide if their child will ride the bus, bring their child to school, or have their child participate in the distance learning option.
In addition to the social distancing, sanitization and hygiene practices schools will be teaching and engaging in each day for students, HCS asks that all parents check their child’s temperature each morning prior to leaving for school. If a child’s temperature is 100 degrees or higher, the student should stay home and the school be notified.
For the parents of any new student with plans to attend HCS, registration day is scheduled for Monday, July 27. Parents must go to their child’s zoned school to register. For those with questions on zoning, contact the Board of Education Office at 731-925-3943.
More information will be coming soon about the schedule for Pre-K. For kindergarten, the schedule is:
•July 27 – registration day-parents pick-up testing schedule;
•Aug. 3-6 – Kindergarten screenings
•Aug. 7 – student placement and preparation
•Aug. 10 – boys attend
•Aug. 11 – girls attend
•Aug. 12 – boys attend
•Aug. 13 – girls attend;
•Aug. 14 – all Kindergarten students attend
School officials note that this plan is subject to change as the school district continues to receive guidance from the state and health officials.
“I’ve got a feeling I’m going to have an announcement for The Courier probably every week throughout July, this thing changes so often. We’re rolling with the punches, but what is planned today might no longer be tomorrow, so I’m asking everyone to be patient, work with us and keep looking out for announcements,” Davis said.
“Now more than ever, school systems and parents will need to work together, support one another, and cooperate in order to create the best opportunities for success for our children. Never forget, my door is always open if you would like to meet and discuss concerns or feel free to contact me any time at 925-3943. I can also be reached by email at [email protected] It is truly a privilege and an honor to serve as your Director of Schools,” he added.