Local school campuses soon could see lots of activity as administrators look at restarting programs halted by health guidelines under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blount County Schools opened its extended care Friends program at six sites last month, with attendance approaching a total of 100 students this week. Next week it plans to open the program at Eagleton and Mary Blount elementary schools, according to director Kathy Smith.
This week, the Blount County Board of Education voted to give Director Rob Britt flexibility to make decisions about a wide range of programs, from the summer Friends program to athletic workouts and camps beginning no earlier than May 26, with the understanding that he may need to act quickly to postpone or cancel activities if conditions change.
“The situation around COVID-19 changes by the day,” Britt told the board, but he is not only following the governor’s recommendations but also consulting with the local health department and county government, school staff and the board chair in making decisions.
Britt said BCS also is aligning startup plans with the city school districts.
Maryville City Schools plans to open its five Adventure Club extended care programs May 18, with precautions such as temperature checks for students and staff twice a day, smaller groups and no field trips.
“There’s a lot of interest and need,” Maryville Director Mike Winstead said.
The district also is planning for traditional summer activities such as athletic workouts and music camps.
Winstead said he is comfortable offering such programs as long as participation is voluntary. At this time, Winstead said, he’s not comfortable saying that students must participate in an activity this summer to be part of a team or other group during the school year.
Coaches already have been told to limit groups to no more than 10 people. So instead of 100 football players on the field at a time, for example, there may be a single coach and nine students at various stations.
Alcoa City Schools plans to assess the situation the week of May 18, looking at the possibility of athletic practices and other activities starting after Memorial Day, according to Director Brian Bell.
During a budget meeting Friday, May 8, with Maryville City Council, Winstead mentioned the district already has ordered 20 no-touch thermometers for each of its seven schools, as well as additional hand-sanitizing stations, items that currently are on back order.
Alcoa has ordered at least 10 infrared thermometers and 600 bottles of hand sanitizer for its four schools, said Keri Prigmore, coordinated school health coordinator. Alcoa also is purchasing electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, she said, an item BCS has been been using for a few years.
BCS has a team that is reviewing recommendations and placing orders for items such as hand sanitizer, infrared thermometers, gloves and additional cleaning supplies for its 21 schools, said Amanda Vance, supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications.