After a recent surge in local COVID-19 cases, all Hawkins County Schools will return to virtual instruction on Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24. 

Wednesday, Nov. 25 will begin the three-day Thanksgiving break, so the school system will essentially have a week to 'reset' before returning to in-person instruction on Monday, Nov.30 

Earlier this week, Surgoinsville Elementary, Surgoinsville Middle and Volunteer High Schools announced that they would return to virtual instruction. On Thursday afternoon, Church Hill Intermediate School announced that they would be joining those schools with virtual instruction. 

The school system announced in a Friday afternoon press release that the decision to return all schools to virtual learning was made "due to increase staff and student testing for COVID-19, and given the Thanksgiving break."

"We tried to avoid making this decision, but we want to keep the numbers as small as possible," read the release. "We hope the holiday week will provide staff and students time to rest and recover."

The system also warned parents and guardians to please watch for any news regarding any change in the date that in-person instruction will resume.

“There have been minimal increases, but in an effort to keep the numbers from growing at a faster pace, we decided to go ahead and move everything to virtual,” Director of Schools Matt Hixson said in published reports. “(Monday and Tuesday) are still counted as instructional days. They will just occur through virtual means.”

Hixson added, “We want to get those who are on quarantine, or those who aren't feeling well, time to heal up, and hopefully start fresh on Nov. 30 with most, if not all, of our staff and students in attendance.”

Free meals for pickup

All school sites will offer daily free meal pickups both Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The free five-day meal bags will be available at all schools on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All schools (except Cherokee and Volunteer) will offer late pickups from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Since the school year began in August, 43 staff or faculty have tested positive, 64 students have tested positive, and 156 faculty or staff members and 668 students have been quarantined.