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Unicoi County students returning to in-person classes

Unicoi County Educators discuss future plans for the 2020-21 school year during a recent in-service. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County School System has officially set a date for students to return to physical classrooms.

According to Director of Schools John English, students and staff will be able to enter Unicoi County schools on Sept. 14.

“We know that remote learning is not ideal for many of our students and families,” English said. “We have been closely tracking the (COVID-19) numbers in Unicoi County and feel like we have moved in the right direction. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce that we will return to in-person learning for those who wish on Monday, Sept. 14.

“With that said, this could all change if we see a spike in numbers. I am working with the health department everyday to see where we are with the virus.”

Unlike other area schools, Unicoi County families who wish to remain in Unicoi County’s Virtual Academy can do so when the county begins its in-person return.

“We understand that many students and families may not be comfortable or ready for a return to buildings,” English said. “In those instances, we encourage the continuation of virtual learning for those students. If your decision has changed since you let us know your intent, please reach out to your school-level administration to discuss your child’s education options going forward.”

For those returning to their physical classrooms, there will be new guidelines.

“Upon the return to in-person learning, we will begin operating in the yellow protocols,” English said. “We will start with a mask requirement for all staff and students in accordance with the county mask mandate. Any family or student who does not wish to wear a mask should remain in virtual learning until the mask requirement is lifted.

“We will provide opportunities throughout the day for mask removal when appropriate distancing can occur. There will also be times, such as lunch and when students are outdoors, during which masks may be taken off.”

According to English, schools will need parental help preparing students for the updated changes.

“We will follow all health guidelines as closely as possible, but in some instances it will not be practical in the school setting,” English said. “We need students to realize that masks are a requirement and must be worn. We also realize that it’s going to be difficult to make sure that students are practicing social distancing. We can’t guarantee that students will be distancing.

“We really need our parents to make sure the students understand why distancing is important. Our parents can refer to the Unicoi County Schools Reopening Plan on our district website to reference our procedures and guidelines.”

English was excited to once again offer meals to every student and their families.

“Effective immediately, Unicoi County Schools will serve all meals free to any child ages 1 to 18,” English said. “Meals can be picked up at any elementary school Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon. Bus deliveries will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 a.m. and noon. Due to the Labor Day holiday, bus deliveries will be Wednesday, Sept. 9 and Thursday Sept. 10, 2020.

“Once the students return to school for in-person classes, they will still receive free meals in the cafeteria. All students that continue virtual learning at home can have meals delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but must call the School Nutrition office at 743-1612 or email [email protected] to schedule delivery.”

For more information, follow Unicoi County Schools News and Announcements on Facebook or check unicoischools.com for the latest updates.