Hamilton County, TN – This week has marked an unprecedented spring semester return for students across the nation. As local cases of COVID-19 continue to rise above previous records, Hamilton County Schools made the decision not to reopen to students after the holidays despite sending them home ahead of time as well.
They confirmed last week that students will participate in remote learning through the 8th of January and last night, remote learning was extended through January 15th.
Tuesday evening, the school district updated their online phase tracking graphic in order to accommodate the rising number of cases currently active in Hamilton County.
This appears to indicate that the school system will continue to function as it has since the release prior to Christmas, despite the fact that the CDC director stated on November 19th that “The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be – from our perspective – is to remain in school.”
Students have been adapting to changing learning environments for nearly a year at this point, with schools initially shutting down for virtual learning last March.
The toll this has taken on the education system can only be projected at this point, but it is clear that our nation’s youth has carried a great deal of the stress that comes with COVID-19.
Teachers and administrative staff have faced constantly evolving changes at the same time.
One local middle school teacher expressed, “I feel right now it’s more important for me to be there for the kids than it is to press them about working through curriculum. I try to give them a lot of agency in our projects so they feel like they have control over something.”
The teacher went on to share that this year has been especially draining as a new teacher and they have considered exploring other career options should the shutdowns continue.
These groups alone represent a significant portion of our community, but there are many more individuals who find themselves negatively affected by remote learning.
One consequence of the school shutdown includes a significant number of transportation staff being out of work.
This includes bus drivers, monitors, and other transportation staff for the Department of Education that are managed by First Group Inc.
A local bus driver’s assistant reported that due to the early and extended closure of schools, she is forced to rely on unemployment benefits that she would otherwise not require.
Hamilton County Schools have made valiant attempts to find work for these staff members, including delivering meals to students over the summer.
Unfortunately, the rapid nature of change in policy lately has left many of these people and programs uncertain how to maintain their livelihood.
This issue also impacts but is not limited to cafeteria staff, after school program staff, and even individuals working in satellite programs that support the schools such as The YMCA’s Food and Fun Program.
It is no question that we will continue to see the effects these closures have on our community and economy as a whole.