Temporary Virtual Learning May Be Coming For Quarantined Hamilton County Students

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Published August 19, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

With over 600 students possibly being quarantined from Covid-19 exposure in Hamilton County, there may be virtual learning options on the way. During a work session on Monday, August 16, the district said that zoom learning would be “allowed but not required” for students who are in quarantine. 

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The first full day of classes for Hamilton County Schools was on August 12, and two days later more than 600 students were said to have been exposed to the Covid virus. 

An agenda for the school board meeting to be held today, August 19th, shows that Hamilton County will be considering additional online learning options for quarantined students. 

While remote learning was offered last year, the State Board of Education said this year that will not be an option unless students are enrolled in a virtual school. 

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Parents in Hamilton County have expressed frustration about the lack of guidance in regards to students learning during their quarantine. 

One parent, Jaime Barks, told News Channel 9, “My son is on quarantine, because he was exposed after being in school for 10 hours, and we were told there’s nothing, just treat it like a flu absence.”

According to the school district, students are currently able to learn virtually with their teachers or be sent work packets in order to not be counted absent. The new policy would allow for temporary online schooling that is still compliant with the state board’s policy. 

Hamilton County’s proposal states that the new virtual learning program would mean, “a course or series of courses offered using technology and does not mean full time attendance at a virtual school.”

The plan also adds that students can “participate in a virtual education program without enrolling in a virtual school,” if the student attends the school they are receiving online instruction from. 

It will be up to each school’s administration to decide if a student is eligible to enroll in a virtual program. Since the programs are intended for temporary use, they are allowed under the state board’s policy. 

In response to the rising number of quarantined students, the Hamilton County school district implemented a mask mandate to require masks be worn in school buildings and on buses. However, parents are able to fill out a form to opt-out their children. 

The new policy was met with protests from several parents who felt using a form to opt-out was unnecessary. During a recent school board meeting, parents showed up to voice their concerns about the mandate and how it is affecting students. 

“Learning is not happening when everybody’s face is covered in a mask and there’s plastic shields everywhere,” parents said. 

One parent, Mike White, added, “People that want to wear masks and want to get vaccinated, do that, but other people who don’t want to, don’t demonize them.” 

Joe Wingate, the chairman for the school board, told parents “we don’t get to establish the standard of care and the reality is there are limitations in the state of Tennessee to be able to do that.”

According to the school district, the mandate is meant for staff and educators more than students. The next school board meeting will this evening, August 19th, and members will vote on the new plan for a virtual education program.

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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