Hamblen Co. Schools gives parents learning options for students

Hamblen County Schools has given parents the choice whether they want their student to learn virtually or in a classroom for the 2020-2021 school year.
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 12:13 PM EDT
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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - Hamblen County Schools has given parents the choice of whether they want their students to learn virtually or in a classroom for the 2020-2021 school year.

Parents who want to enroll students in online learning will be required to complete a form online by July 1. The form can also access a hard copy of the form at the central office.

”I’m worried about the in-school learning because I know they can’t keep their social distance, and I don’t see six grade and under being able to keep a mask on all day,” said Mary Still. ”And the online, I think that’s great. That’s what I’d choose, but I feel like I’m not educated enough to give her what she needs for a whole school year.”

Still’s debate was one many parents are having. She’s the grandmother and guardian to five-year-old Maddie.

“Because I just did nine weeks of pre-k and I felt terrible with the outcome of it you know, like, oh my gosh, did she learn anything or not,” questioned Still.

Now Still is trying to decide what’s best for Maddie-online classes, going back to private school or a Hamblen County classroom. It’s a choice many parents and guardians will have to make.

”What we decided is that we would not place those particular grandparents, guardians, in jeopardy. We wanted to make sure that those individuals had an option,” said Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County Schools Superintendent.

The Hamblen County Department of Education received more than $2 million from the CARES Act.

Perry and his staff have bought 2,000 computers and 500 mobile hotspots to get students access to online learning from their home or even from the parking lot of their school.

“As we begin to look, over 40 percent of our folks did not seem like they had access to reliable Internet that would enable them to use the kind of programming we need to use,” Perry said.

Many parents had concerns outside the availability of technology.

“I don’t really think I can do a whole year of learning, online learning. Especially with the economic situation right now, I may have to go back into the workforce also,” said Still.

Dr. Perry said kids in the classroom would be social distancing. He and his staff are still deciding if students and teachers would have to wear masks.

Yet some parents are ready for their students to return.

”He is my child and you know he doesn’t listen to me like he would a teacher and so I think he needs that. And that’s very important for him being in second grade,” said Hannah Beeler.

“I think it’s a good idea to have those options, especially for parents that aren’t risk takers as other parents. As for us, my child, he wants to go back to school. He misses that social interaction,” said Juan Cervantes.

Parents will decide for each child what’s best for them.

If parents select online learning, students must attend virtual classes daily, as if they were in a classroom setting. Students will be using Google Classroom if they choose to learn virtually. If a family has a computer at home, but unsure if it is good for learning, the school system will be sharing a virtual video for parents to download to make sure they can use the technology.

Dr. Perry also shared that some classes are harder to move online like welding and grades kindergarten through second grade. These are just a few examples of where students may need to use certain materials or where teachers can examine behaviors and understanding better in-person.

The school system is also examining the well being of teachers and staff who may be medically compromised so they are staying safe.

School begins July 31st.

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