All public schools in Hawkins, Hancock and Sullivan Counties will now be closed beginning on Tuesday, March 17 with plans to reopen on March 31.

Though our neighbors in Sullivan Co. and Kingsport City announced on Sunday, March 15 that their schools would be closed from March 15 until March 27, these and other closures were extended at the request of Governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee.

On the morning of March 16, Lee issued the following statement, asking every school district in the entire state to close:

“As the response to COVID-19 evolves, I urge every school district in Tennessee to close as soon as practically possible, with all schools expected to close by Friday, March 20, 2020 at the latest. Schools should remain closed through March 31, 2020 to further mitigate the spread of this infectious disease, and we will issue further guidance prior to March 31. Superintendents and local leadership have the full support of my administration to determine effective dates for closure this week as they evaluate what is best for families within their respective districts. We understand the tremendous burden school closure places on families and we will continue to work with both the federal government and school districts to ensure we continue essential supports like meals for students in need. Every Tennessean has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and I urge Tennesseans to be quick to help neighbors as new needs surface with the closure of schools.”

As a result, Hawkins Co., Hancock Co. and Rogersville City Schools announced just hours later that they would be closing from March 17 through March 31.

All schools also urged parents to watch for further communication, as the closures could be longer than originally planned.

Hawkins Co. Schools offering drive-through lunch service

During these closures Hawkins Co. Schools will offer drive-through lunch services and free WIFI access.

These lunches will be served at the following locations: Bulls Gap School, Mooresburg Elementary, Hawkins Elementary, Surgoinsville Elementary, Church Hill Elementary, and Clinch School. All lunch distributions will occur from 11:30-1:00 daily from Tuesday, March 17- Friday, March 20.

These meals are free for any child age 18 and under. No paperwork is required to receive a meal, but children must be present in the car when picking up the meal. School administrators also ask that the meals be consumed off-site.

WIFI access will also be available during the week from 11:30-1:00 p.m. in parking areas at the designated lunch distributions sites to allow parents to download online learning resources.

“My staff and I will continue to work closely with state, regional, and local health department officials and will relay any updates affecting our school system operation beyond March 31,” said Director of Hawkins Co. Schools Matt Hixson. “I appreciate everyone’s patience while we continued to receive information regarding making the best decision for Hawkins County. Our teachers have also been hard at work preparing online and take-home resources and activities. Please look for school communication with directions on how to access either take-home resources or online materials. Again, please know we have taken the necessary time to develop plans dealing with a potential long-term closure and student and family resources leading to this decision. I will be in communication with you as we receive updates and make decisions.”

For more information visit the Hawkins Co. School website at https://www.hck12.net/ or keep up with their Facebook page.

Hancock County Schools will send parents information regarding food service Hancock Co. Director of Schools Tony Seal told our sister paper, the Eagle, that the closure will affect all academic, extracurricular and sporting/athletic events.

“Please be aware that as we approach the end of this closure, additional assessment will take place regarding when and how school will resume,” Seal said in a communication that went out at mid-day Monday.

During the closure, he said, the ETSU School Based Health Clinic at Hancock Co. Elementary School will remain open. The clinic can be contacted at 423-733-2121 or 733-2463.

“All HCS administrators and supervisors should continue to fulfill their requirements and responsibilities to their programs and buildings,” Seal said. “All school system facilities, including the old gymnasium, are closed to use by the community.”

All changes and updates will be posted to the school system’s website, www.hancockcountyschools.com.

Seal said that further communication will be sent out regarding food service and staff expectations.

“As a community, we are all concerned with the health and well-being of our citizens and feel this is the most appropriate measure for Hancock County’s students and families at this time,” Seal said. “I want to urge all families to follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control) guidance concerning limiting activities and social distancing. At this time, it is critical that we be overly cautious to safeguard the health of our families and community. I thank you for your support during this time and wish all of our families the very best of health.”

Updates will also be posted on the Eagle’s Facebook page as they are received.