Mindful of the rise in COVID-19 cases since students returned from fall break last month, two school districts announced plans for slowing the return to campus after upcoming breaks.

By noon Thursday, Nov. 19, Alcoa City Schools had 16 new cases at its high school this week, two at the middle school and two at the intermediate school. ACS is not saying how many are staff cases and how many are students.

Director Becky Stone announced that following Thanksgiving through the end of December only the elementary school students may be on campus every day of the week.

In grades 3-12, no more than half the students will be in the buildings any day, allowing greater distancing and reducing the number who must quarantine when there is a COVID-19 case. Students whose last names begin with A-K will be on campus Monday and Wednesday, those with L-Z will be in person on Tuesday and Thursday, and all will have distance learning on Fridays.

Students in prekindergarten through grade 2 will be on campus at the elementary school as long as numbers permit, the director said.

In addition to reminding parents to have students wear masks, wash their hands regularly and socially distance when possible, in a recorded message on Thursday, Nov. 19, Stone said, “If your child has been asked to quarantine, please make sure that they do so and are not around other crowds of people.”

She told The Daily Times there did not appear to be any pattern in the high school cases and she thought it just reflected the uptick in local cases.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 16 new cases of covonavirus among children ages 5-18 in Blount County. Since Nov. 12 the number was up by 99.

Three of the new Alcoa cases were from the band, Stone said, so the entire band has been quarantined.

Maryville City Schools is not changing anything for Thanksgiving but did tell families Thursday, Nov. 19, that December schedules will change.

The last day for on-campus instruction for Maryville students before winter break will be Dec. 11, and all seven schools will have digital instruction Dec. 14 and 15, Director Mike Winstead said.

To minimize close contacts after the break, all Maryville’s elementary students will return to campus Tuesday, Jan. 5 but those in grades 4-12 will have a staggered scheduled that week.

“We will monitor our attendance and COVID data to determine if staggering should continue in any schools for the following week,” Winstead wrote in an email to The Daily Times.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, Maryville reported four new student cases, two at the high school and two at Coulter Grove Intermediate School, where the sixth grade “Silver House” group remains on virtual instruction today, Nov. 20. Winstead said he expects the Silver House to return to campus Monday, Nov. 23.

Blount County Schools announced Monday, Nov. 16, that all 21 schools will have distance learning Nov. 23-24, but William Blount High School and Heritage Middle School had to finish this week online.

In the first four days of this week BCS reported 16 new staff cases and new 28 student cases, but it is not reporting at which schools.

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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