By MARINA WATERS
After months of virtual learning, Washington County students were able to return to in-person schooling this week.
The Washington County Board of Education unanimously approved the plan to return to in-person learning during its Tuesday, Jan. 26, meeting after Director of Schools Bill Flanary informed the board that the county has seen a drop in its COVID-19 infection rate.
“It is very low,” Flanary told the board. “We are down to just nine people in the entire system that are infected.”
In choosing to return to in-person learning, the school board also kept in mind the bill within the Tennessee Legislator which could cost state school systems basic education program funding if their schedules do not include at least 70 days of in-school learning for the 2020-2021 school year.
“You are aware of a bill from the Tennessee Assembly to require school systems to have 70 days of in-person learning this school year or risk losing BEP funding,” Flanary said. “We have 77 days of school left. We can count 16 days that we were in a blended format towards the 70. That leaves us nine days to play with.”
Board Member Chad Fleenor asked if virtual days or any remaining snow days could be used when teachers aren’t feeling well following the second round of the vaccine.
“(Recently) some teachers and staff got their second shot,” Fleenor said. “It was on a Thursday. They found out about 5 o’clock they would be able to receive the second shot on Thursday if they so choose. Some people didn’t come in Friday because of the reactions.
“On those days, it would be nice if we could be virtual because we don’t even know what days the staff can get them.”
Board Member Annette Buchanan said she was concerned about the contracts some parents signed earlier this school year.
Those contracts were signed by parents with kids in the school system who have a medical reason to go to an all-virtual schedule for rest of the year.
Buchanan said she felt the school system needed to uphold that contract.
“I think if they have a contract at this point, right now — not tomorrow, not three days from now — right now, and if we this board have made a contract with these parents, we need to stand on it.” Buchanan said.
Chairman Jason Day said he was worried there wouldn’t be enough teachers to continue the virtual learning, which was a concern mentioned at a recent BOE meeting. Flanary said 30 hours a week of instruction was required by the state and recorded lessons could help with that issue.
The next BOE meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. To livestream that meeting go to wcde.org.