Hawkins schools announce virtual start to spring semester

Hawkins County Schools will begin their 2021 spring semester on a completely virtual platform, but Director of Schools Matt Hixson noted that the system will return to in-person instruction as the semester progresses.

Hixson released information on the spring semester operational phase through a Tuesday morning press release.

As it stands, all schools in the system will utilize virtual instruction from Jan. 4, when the spring 2021 semester begins, through Jan. 19.

The system plans to return to classroom instruction in the system’s ‘Yellow Phase’ beginning Wednesday, Jan. 20, following the end of Tenn. Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order 70, which limits public gatherings to 10 people or less among other restrictions.

The Yellow Phase consists of students attending in-person classes Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Friday, students will attend virtual instruction from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with the exception of those students who need small group, targeted instruction.

“As you know, we were able to hold in-class instruction for most schools through the first semester,” Hixson said in the release. “However, toward the end of the first semester, we dealt with staff absences due to quarantines following Thanksgiving break. In discussions with our local health officials, we are planning for similar trends following the Christmas and New Year holidays, as many families have traveled to get together. In order to allow proper planning on your part and the part of our teachers and support staff, HCS is making the decision to begin our spring semester with virtual learning. The last thing we want to do is begin a schedule and then change it out of necessity, forcing last-minute changes upon you. We want to inform you early and monitor the numbers locally during the weeks following the holiday break.”

Hixson noted that all teachers, unless they are quarantined or otherwise prevented from doing so, will report daily to their classroom in order to provide virtual daily lessons and support.

Small, targeted student group support will continue through this period. Per the system’s operational plan, schools will bring in small groups of students Monday through Friday during this time. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to please see their child’s teacher or their site’s administrator if they are contacted to send their child to school during this time.

If parents/caregivers are not contacted, they are asked to please ensure that their student is accessing all materials online during this time.

To ensure consistent student communication, schools will establish schedules for work submission and student contact. This may include procedures for submitting work virtually, communicating directly with the teacher, and/or dropping work off at the school site if applicable.

Hixson noted that attendance will be taken daily, even during virtual learning days. Students without internet connectivity should work with their schools to ensure that daily instruction is ongoing.

In regard to sports, per Gov. Lee’s Executive Order and new TSSAA spectator recommendations, sports will continue as long as team members and coaches are COVID-19 free.

The latest restrictions from TSSAA can be found on their website, www.tssaa.org, which will be linked to the online version of this article.

School sites will soon release updated spectator procedures. Please look for communication from your student’s coach or school site administration.

Free student meals will still be provided to those on campus and for pickup at each school site from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. unless otherwise notified by each school’s respective website.

“We want to thank you for supporting our efforts to keep HCS schools open this year,” Hixson said. “Our continuing goal is to be to keep students in class if safe to do so, by monitoring and reacting to local school and system-based data.”