Blount County Schools students returned to campus Wednesday, July 29 — the morning after Gov. Bill Lee released his recommendations for reopening schools for 2020-21.

BCS was the second local district to welcome students back inside the buildings since March, when they closed because of the pandemic. Alcoa City Schools began classes last week, and Maryville City Schools starts today, July 30.

“It was exciting for all of us to have students back in our buildings with their energy and excitement for learning,” said Amanda Vance, BCS supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications.

Like the other districts, BCS is checking temperatures every morning and following a staggered start. In Blount County, students are divided into three groups by last name, with all students expected to be on campus together for the first time Aug. 7. That won’t include kindergarteners, who follow a different staggered schedule, and students who have opted for virtual learning.

Last week BCS updated its reopening plan to say students are “expected” to wear face coverings when distancing is difficult, such as on school buses and when transitioning between classes, but no enforcement is planned.

Lee’s reopening plan said the state is providing no-cost personal protective equipment, “including face masks for any school stakeholder who wants or needs one, thermometers for every school, and face shields for every staff member.”

The governor’s plan also said that “every classroom teacher will have a full-year classroom disinfecting kit to use so no teacher pays for these materials out of their own pockets. The kits include hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves and masks.”

BCS received face coverings through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency as well as thermometers for each school, Vance said, adding, “DENSO has also made a gracious donation of face shields for all BCS employees.”

The district had not received classroom disinfecting kits yet, but Vance said BCS provided hand sanitizer and Alpha-PH disinfecting spray for all classrooms on the district’s 21 campuses.

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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