A Blount County Schools announcement sent to parents late Monday states the system will extend a staggered attendance schedule until Aug. 21.

A Tuesday announcement said a student or staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Monday announcement, traditional learners in grades 1-12 will continue on a hybrid schedule, attending classes in person based on last-name groups.

The new model starts Friday, the day 1-12 students were originally expected to return in person, the announcement stated.

Kindergarten attendance beginning Aug. 17 will be staggered in two student groups with last names ranging from A-K and L-Z. Until then, they’ll continue with the “previously communicated” schedule for Aug. 4-14. Students still will be able to pick up meals on several days between Aug. 10-18, also using a last-name-basis schedule.

“After reviewing data related to infection rates in our county and the effect on our schools, and consulting with our Blount County Health Department, we are going to transition to a hybrid model for in-person classes,” BCS Director Rob Britt emailed parents Monday night.

“The reopening schedule will allow us to keep smaller classes for increased social distancing, keep cohort groups of students together, increase the time for in-person instruction to two or three days a week and reduce contacts and potential exposure to infection,” Britt continued.

The Daily Times contacted Amanda Vance, BCS supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications, and asked how many students and staff members had tested positive by Tuesday.

She replied in an email that communication has been provided to individual school communities and families about COVID-19 exposures and tests, but said BCS would not provide additional information about case numbers.

Families and staff were told in an email announcement Tuesday that an individual at Heritage Middle School tested positive.

Leaders there are following BCS protocol by informing local and state health departments and protecting the person’s identity, parents were told.

Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter for more from city government reporter Andrew Jones.

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