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Eight in 10 Kingsport students in grades 6-12 learning online

Rick Wagner • Apr 15, 2020 at 6:45 PM

KINGSPORT  — Although Kingsport City Schools isn’t having in-person learning because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the school system head said between 80 and 85% of students in grades 6-12 are actively engaged in online learning.

During Tuesday’s Board of Education regular meeting, held via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook Live, Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said that all but 15 to 20% of students in the higher grades are actively using Chromebooks to learn online.

“What we do in schools isn’t about state tests. It’s about learning, and we want to continue student learning,” Moorhouse said during the virtual meeting, attended electronically by all five school board members and some staff.

He said grades 6-12 students not using Chromebooks are using information packets distributed by their schools. Tennessee and federal authorities have waived requirements for standardized testing and other testing for the remainder of the academic year. 

Students in Pre-K through fifth grade are working with packets, with special education students of all grade levels also continuing learning.

On Thursday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is set to make an announcement about schools, which under a prior executive order had been closed for in-person instruction until the end of April, although other states already have called off all in-person learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year as COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to spread and cause deaths.

WHAT ABOUT MEALS?

Moorehouse said that the KCS feeding program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to grow, having distributed 75,325 meals from March 17 through April 9. The food is distributed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday via drive-by or bus delivery.

He also said the system has had no layoffs or furloughs during the closure.

“We have a lot of people who have gone above and beyond,” Moorhouse said.

The meals started out as separate lunch and breakfast distributions of 644 March 17, he said, and the distributions continue to grow, with the recent average about 8,000 a day,

The board voted on a recommendation, presented by Chief Finance Officer David Frye and Chief Human Resources Office Jennifer Guthrie,  to give an additional $25-per-day payment to school nutrition workers, instructional assistants and bus drivers who help distribute the meals and an extra $10 per day to cafeteria managers for their work in preparing and distributing food.

Moorhouse said additional food for weekends is distributed in food boxes and backpack programs.

The additional funds from school nutrition funding would be paid retroactively to Monday, March 30, and the board approved the measure 5-0.

VOTE ON POLICIES

The board also voted to approved two things on first and only reading, per a Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) recommended draft policy: a revision of Policy 1.8011 to give the system the ability to pay employees while the system is closed for in-person learning and some are working at home or unable to work; and new Policy 5.115.1, which allows the superintendent during emergency closures to lay out teleworking requirements and instructions. 

Moorhouse and Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said such actions reflect needed flexibility and mirror what the school board approved at a called meeting.

He said TSBA recommendations for other new or revised policies to meet the coronavirus pandemic came in today but are not yet ready to be presented to the board, something he said would come at a future meeting.

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