By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County School System is ready to welcome students back to class.

“It is exciting to have students return,” Director of Schools John English told The Erwin Record. “Our work in the summer is all geared towards things for our students. Obviously, they bring a lot of energy back to the school system. I think it is always exciting to get kids back in classrooms.

“We are in the business of students, so when they are not around it’s not quite the same. We are glad to be getting them back.”

The first day of school will be Monday, Aug. 14. Students will dismiss early on that day with middle school and high school students going from 7:45-11:45 a.m. and elementary school students going from 8 a.m. to noon. Breakfast and lunch will be served on Aug. 14.

“The first full day of school will be Tuesday, Aug. 15,” English said.

Teachers returned to work on Monday, Aug. 7.

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New this school year is how parents and guardians will be asked to fill out and submit their students’ beginning of year information packets, according to English. In previous years, these were filled out by hand; however, in order to make filling out the packets more convenient, parents and guardians must now fill out and submit them online.

“The biggest thing parents need to look out for is our transition to online students’ beginning-of-year packets,” English said. “This will make it easier for our families, especially those with multiple students. Those packets were pretty cumbersome. We are trying to make that more efficient for our families and for us.”

English said login information for Skyward, the website parents use to access the packet and other student information, was to be sent to parents’ email on file on Aug. 7.

For more information about the packets, parents and guardians should call their child’s school.

Also new this year is an updated website, according to English.

“We have a new website that we feel like is much easier to navigate,” he added. “On the website is a systemwide calendar of events. So, for families with students at multiple schools they can go to one location to find out what is going on at each school.

“Every school still has its own website within the system website that will also have its respective calendar of events. But, we thought it would be better for communities or families to have one location and see what is going on throughout the system.”

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English also reminds families that due to the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, the school system will dismiss early on that day. Middle and high school students will dismiss at 11:30 a.m.; elementary schools will dismiss at 11:45 a.m. Lunch will be served.

“We had received a few calls from families who were planning to take their students out of school that day and traveling toward middle Tennessee where the eclipse is going to be more prominent,” English said. “With that being a once-in-a-lifetime event, we decided to dismiss early on that day to allow families to spend time with their children and make special plans.”

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Open houses were held at the middle school and high school on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Elementary schools students and their families are invited to open house events at their respective schools on Thursday, Aug. 10, from 5-7 p.m.

“The open houses allow the students to get their schedules and meet their teachers before school begins,” English previously said. “We believe it is advantageous to our students and their families to get to know their teachers before the first day of school.”