Blount County Schools announced Monday, July 13, that it will stagger the beginning of the 2020-21 year with students attending in smaller groups based on their last names.

All BCS students were to return to class July 29. In addition to spreading out the return, Blount County won’t have any kindergarteners begin until Aug. 3. The kindergarteners traditionally have followed a two-week staggered start, which will continue.

“A staggered schedule will give our students and teachers an opportunity to interact in smaller groups and support the transition back to school after an extended closure,” BCS said in its announcement.

The schedule for grades 1-12 based on students’ last names is:

• A-G, July 29 and then Aug. 3

• H-O, July 30 and Aug. 4

• P-Z, July 31 and Aug 5.

Students are out of school Aug. 6, election day, so the first day for all except kindergarten will be Aug. 7. With the kindergarteners’ staggered start, Aug. 17 will be the first day for everyone to be in the buildings at the same time.

Schools will provide information for when students should attend.

Students have not been in the buildings since spring break began in March, with distance learning starting after that because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Precautions due to the coronavirus will change many school routines, beginning with a daily temperature check on arrival.

“Our goal is to focus on safety procedures and welcoming students back for the 20-21 school year as well as an opportunity to assess student academic levels,” said Amanda Vance, BCS supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications.

Blount County families have until July 17 to choose whether their students will return to classrooms or opt for virtual learning as the school year begins.

Alcoa City Schools announced that it was staggering its opening, starting July 22.

Maryville City Schools said Monday, July 13, it has no plans for a staggered start at this time. Maryville’s classes are scheduled to resume July 30.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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