Concerned Parents Encouraged To Participate in Town Hall Meeting Tonight About Spring Reentry Plan, Fully Remote Learning

Hamilton County Schools will be holding a Spring Reentry Plan Town Hall Meeting on Zoom tonight (Tuesday the 15th) at 6PM EST. 

To register for the meeting, follow this link: REGISTER NOW!

Hamilton County, TN – The Hamilton County School System and the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Bryan Johnson, made the decision that Hamilton County Schools will be operating on a completely remote schedule this week, Dec 14 – 18, meaning students will not be back in school until January 6th

Johnson stated that the school system has been struggling to keep vacancies filled with substitute teachers.   

Just last week, in a Hamilton County School Board Meeting, School Board Member Rhonda Thurman made an impassioned plea to the Board and the Superintendent.

“We will never, never catch up the year’s-worth of education these students have lost.  What we’re doing to these students, we’re never going to be able to fix, ” Thurman said, “These kids need to be in school. They need to be with their friends. They need to have some hope. We’ve already taken so much away from them.”  

Her sentiments are echoed by many Hamilton County parents and means a potential loss of employment for some. 

Amber Johnson Cullers said, “I’m sorry but this is absolutely nuts…they are only hurting the kids and families by not allowing school to be open.” 

Kathy Cisco Fickley said, “It’s definitely a burden for a lot of parents.  My daughter-in-law couldn’t do this without help.” 

Rochelle Marshall and Jennifer Beasley also stated that this decision has caused a tremendous burden on parents like them. 

A local single mother of two, Nikki Litman, says the uncertainty of these learning schedules is hard enough with two parent households, but it is significantly harder for single parents. 

Litman stated that she already lost a job over the uncertain schedule and having to make time to be at home with her son, who is only in the fifth grade. 

“Unfortunately, companies still need to get work done and need you to be able to fulfill your duties if working full-time without an at home option, as many companies are. So they can and will easily replace you with someone without a child, or with a more flexible schedule,” Litman said. 

Danielle Scott Gonzales stated, “My kid is struggling. I’m in nursing school and can’t be with her to make sure she’s doing her work so she goes to the Y program. They make sure she gets on her zooms but don’t help her much with her work so we still have to do assignments in the evening at home. She struggles with writing and we’ve pretty much given up on that. She has good test scores and is smart so I’m sure she will catch up eventually. It feels like a lot of the assignment and the format is really only designed for kids whose parents are able to be right there with them all the time. Unfortunately that isn’t the case for everyone.”

However, some parents believe schools shutting down is the only way to cope with the surge of COVID cases.

Michael McMann stated, “Fortunately my son is adapting to virtual learning. I’m certain there are those that are not though. Until the massive surge in cases ends though, the lesser ‘evil’ is to have schools shuttered for in person learning. Finances come back. Lives don’t.”

Superintendent Johnson acknowledged the burden the closure puts on some parents. 

“Look, I’m not just a superintendent, I am also a parent of a third-grader in this District.  And I understand first-hand the inconvenience that this may cause for some and for that, we apologize.”   

Johnson stated that the goal is always to keep the students, the staff and employees safe and that safety is the focus of the decision. 

Johnson challenged the community to “double-down on the strategies that we know to make a difference in suppressing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19”. 

Johnson commended the teachers, leaders and staff for their “heroic efforts” that allowed Hamilton County Schools to be the first large district in the state of Tennessee to open on August 12th and remain open.   

According to Johnson, these efforts allowed “over 42 of our buildings to not have to see a closure this entire first semester.” 

The current 5-day trend chart (last updated 12/10/20) on the Hamilton County Schools website shows the current 5-day average for active cases to be 2,971. 

This number represents .81% of the school population having active COVID-19 cases and places the Schools in the Phase 1 range.   

Phase 1 starts at 2,940 cases.  Anything above this number results in closure of schools and the shutdown of in-person learning. 

Johnson stated that the original plan was for A-group students to come in to school Monday and Tuesday and that B-group students were scheduled to come in on Thursday and Friday. 

The shift to remote learning for this week will be followed by Winter Break which extends until January 6th.    

The Zoom town hall meeting tonight (Tuesday) will focus on the Spring Reentry plan for the school system where many of the same issues will most likely still be in effect. 

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