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Director's Update 7.10.20

posted Jul 10, 2020, 12:05 PM by Kurt Dronebarger

White County Schools Reopening Plan for 2020-2021

Updated July 10, 2020


Note from the Director of Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, and according to health officials, it is not going away anytime soon. With this in mind, the White County Board of Education will begin the 2020-21 school year with an alternative schedule that will provide for both in-school and at-home learning opportunities. Although this is not our preference, we do not feel that we can provide a healthy learning environment under a traditional school model and we learned in the Spring that a fully-online education did not work for most families. Therefore, our hybrid approach is the most practical way for us to provide a meaningful and safe education. This schedule is designed to be temporary and if all goes well, we hope to be back to school in full session by September 1st, 2020. We know that this will not be easy for everyone involved and we do understand the challenges this plan may bring, but we are committed to serving students and families reasonably and safely. I ask for your continued patience and support as we enter this “new normal” and may we grant each other grace as we learn together. 

The paragraphs below will provide more specific information concerning various school departments and organizations. This is not a comprehensive list but rather a summary in order to provide initial and essential information to families. The White County Board of Education will continue to update and distribute information on a timely basis as we approach the first, full day of school on August 7th, 2020. Thank you for your input, your involvement, and your cooperation during this trying time. We are truly in this together and will need your assistance in order to be successful. Take care White County, and be well!


Kurt Dronebarger/ Director of White County Schools


Overall Plan

White County Schools will open the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid schedule consisting of at-school and at-home learning. One-half of the students will come to school on Monday and Tuesday of each week. The other half will come on Thursday and Friday of each week. Parents will be notified in mid-July which days your students will attend (all family members will attend on the same days). Parents will need to arrange for childcare on the weekdays when their child will not be in school. On those 3 weekdays that students are not at school, online/ at-home instruction will be provided. The logic behind this plan is to provide some in-person educational opportunities while still observing social distancing and other health protocols. We plan to utilize the “flipped classroom” method in which students mostly watch lessons and videos at home and do more hands-on practice, activities, and experiments at school. This approach will lower the demands on parents and allow teachers to monitor and adjust to student learning. In the days leading up to school, the district will be working through the logistics of the plan and making the necessary arrangements to address specific student and family needs. 


21st Century After School Program

The 21st Century Afterschool Program will be offered again this year at all White County elementary schools and White County Middle School.  The program operates Monday-Thursday until 5:30 pm.  Students are provided with a structured and safe after school option where they receive a snack, academic and homework assistance, enrichment activities, and physical activity. Applications to follow. 


Academics

Teachers are training during the summer to support instruction as we move to the hybrid schedule. Teachers will also be able to support students who may not be able to return to school because of pre-existing health concerns.  Students will be assessed through NWEA MAP testing and other formative assessments (especially in Math and English). Results will be used as a guide in developing lessons for the students to help offset any learning gaps due to the coronavirus shutdown.


Assessment

The MAP test will be given for K-8 students in White County August 17-28. This assessment is very important and we would like parents to encourage students to do their very best. The  MAP scores drive the student’s individual path in Edgenuity (online curriculum) which may be accessed at school or at home. State assessments are still planned for the Spring but details are not finalized. 


Attendance

The Tennessee State Department of Education is still requiring 180 days of instruction and 6.5 hours of schooling per day. Our plan will provide for such and student attendance will be taken (details to be announced later) each day, including days when students are working from home. Note, this may be as simple as turning in the work that was assigned for that day. More TBD. 


Health

White County Schools will apply the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers to our employees and students when potential exposure to a positive COVID-19 case has been determined. Those with positive cases must be quarantined for 14 days before returning to school. Those who were possibly exposed will be contacted but will continue to come to school and be asked to wear a mask for 14 days as long as they remain symptom-free. 


Registration Day is August 5th, 2020

All parents of all returning students should pre-register their children online by using the Skyward Family Portal. If you cannot access your Skyward account, please email your school principal for assistance. In some cases, a paper registration packet may be made available to you. Pre-K and Kindergarten students will be contacted by their teacher and an appointment will be scheduled for your registration. Returning students DO NOT need to attend school on August 5th. This includes upcoming 6th and 9th-grade students. Only new students to White County (other than those mentioned above) should appear at their school (with their guardian) on August 5th, 800-930am for registration. 


Safety & Operations

Students will practice social distancing at school when practical, including at lunch and recess. Body temperatures will be taken of all students and staff each morning and hand washing will be more frequent. Cleaning protocols will be enhanced and other procedures will be altered to mitigate coronavirus concerns. The use of masks will be encouraged especially in hallways and common areas. Those showing signs of illness will be isolated and parents will be called. If any person tests positive for COVID-19, the health department will work with the school to provide the relevant information to those exposed to risk. ESSER/ CARES Act funding has been budgeted to purchase additional cleaning and disinfecting supplies, thermometers, Chromebooks for student use at home (if needed), and subscriptions to online platforms for teachers to record virtual lessons. 


School Nutrition

High School families will need to complete a free and reduced application. All elementary and middle school students will be receiving free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). No application required. Currently, there will not be any free meals on days when students are not physically in school (like the COVID-19 Summer meals). However, we are pursuing this possibility. School Nutrition Program employees are trained on district expectations related to COVID-19 health precautions.


Special Populations

As White County begins taking steps to reopen schools, the Individual Education Placement (IEP) team must keep Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as part of the IEP when making decisions. The IEP team will decide on the needs of each student and provide flexibility as appropriate. The IEP team will need to address student-specific needs arising from the transition back into school buildings, consider if a student has experienced regression of skills and/or lack of progress, and identify additional, new, or different services and accommodations. Parents will be contacted concerning IEP meetings. 


Technology

Online software has been purchased so that teachers will be able to share lessons with students easily. Teachers will be using more technology in the classroom so that students will be more aware of how to access materials from home. Devices have been purchased and may be checked out based on parent survey results. An application for device checkout will be available at the beginning of the school year.


Transportation

Bus transportation will be provided as normal by the school district. Because we can not guarantee social distancing on buses, all bus riders will be REQUIRED to wear a mask. Refusal to wear a mask will result in a loss of bus privileges. Now more than ever, students are reminded of their personal responsibility to behave appropriately. Misbehavior on a bus will not be tolerated and may result in a loss of privileges. Every student will have their temperature checked by school personnel as they enter the buildings. In all cases, parents are responsible for being sure they are not sending sick students to school. 


Updates

There will be much more information to come. Regular updates will be released from the school district via phone calls, the district website www.whitecoschools.net and other media outlets. If you have immediate questions you may contact your child’s school (email is best) or the White County Board of Education (at our new location of 576 Hale Street) by calling 931-836-2229. 


Stay safe, stay healthy and stay in school!


Director's Update 7.5.20

posted Jul 5, 2020, 7:19 PM by Kurt Dronebarger

Happy Independence Day weekend,
The White County Board of Education will meet this week by electronic means to conduct their monthly meeting. One of the main topics will be the district's Reopening Plan. This plan, if approved, will be issued to the public on Friday, July 10th, 2020. At that point, you may wish to contact your child's individual school (email is best) to discuss individual needs or concerns. The recording of the school board meeting will be made available online within 48 hours of the meeting's completion. 

The district would like to thank you again for your patience and cooperation as we navigate this health crisis together. Please continue to do your part to keep your family and those around you safe and healthy. I look forward to seeing all of you in August!
Mr. D

Director's Update 6.28.20

posted Jun 28, 2020, 9:21 AM by Kurt Dronebarger

White County Schools will be publicly releasing back-to-school plans the week of July 6th, 2020. This information will be shared with local media outlets and posted on the district and school websites. This will be a brief summary of our plan and not an exhaustive list of all possible scenarios. We realize that each family has specific needs and concerns and we will be addressing those on a case-by-case basis. Our return to school plan is based on White County parent survey results (attached) that indicate that 64% prefer a traditional return to school with some health precautions in place. Please stay tuned for more details. 

We have moved! The White County Board of Education is now open at our new location, 576 Hale Street, in Sparta. This is the site of the old Findlay Elementary School. The phone number remains the same, 931-836-2229. Please contact us if we can be of assistance. 

Thank you all and be well!

Director's Update 6.19.20

posted Jun 19, 2020, 3:05 PM by Kurt Dronebarger

Hello all,
Based on survey results, the White County Board of Education is planning to return to school in August in a traditional format. Many new safety precautions will be in place, but "Plan A" will be to return to normal as much as possible. However, we will monitor the COVID-19 situation closely will be prepared to transition to an online learning format if necessary. "Plan B" is a hybrid model (2 days at school and 3 days at home) and "Plan C" is a fully online scenario. I know that you must have MANY questions at the moment, but I ask for your continued patience. Our leadership team is hard at work and we plan to issue a detailed plan on or around July 4th. Our goal is to provide the best education possible while keeping safety our top priority. Thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time and I continue to pray for the health and protection of the entire school family. Stay safe and we will update you soon. 
Sincerely,
Mr. Dronebarger

Financial Assistance for Families Who Qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch

posted Jun 16, 2020, 6:15 AM by Ashley Rust   [ updated Jun 16, 2020, 6:16 AM ]

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced Tennessee families are now eligible to receive financial support for their children’s nutritional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This support is provided through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. 

Under the new P-EBT program, families of children who receive free or reduced meals at school or attend a Community Eligibility Provision school may receive financial assistance to replace school meals during the months of March, April and May due to COVID-19 school closures. The program will provide parents with $5.70 per child for each day that child qualifies for P-EBT. 

 Parents who already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits currently, do not need to apply. The funds began arriving on the EBT card they already use beginning June 12. Parents who do not receive SNAP benefits, but whose children do qualify for free or reduced school meals, will need to apply for PEBT online here beginning June 15. The application period will end June 29, 2020.

Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3. Qualifying families will receive P-EBT support in two installments, one for meals in March and April
initially, and then one additional disbursement later next month for May meals.

Director's Update 6.13.20

posted Jun 13, 2020, 6:23 AM by Kurt Dronebarger   [ updated Jun 20, 2020, 12:04 PM ]

Hello,
On June 11th, the White County School Board voted unanimously to support the district's plan to re-open schools in August on a traditional schedule and with health safety measures in place. This decision was made after seeking parental input from the community and the advice of state and local officials. According to our survey of over 4000 parents (see attachment), 64% supported the idea of returning to school as normal, but with some protective measures in place. With that information, White County Schools is preparing for the 2020-2021 school year. You can expect a detailed plan to be issued the week of Jul 4th, 2020 that will explain our procedures for the start of school. We will continue to seek input from medical professionals and adjust our plans accordingly. I know that you have many questions, but we hope that the plan details will provide the answers you seek. In the meantime, please continue to practice social distancing and other protective measures to keep White County a safe environment for all. 

Reminder: The WCHS Baccalaureate Service is at 700pm on Sunday, June 14th. Senior Graduation is at 700pm on Monday, June 15th. Due to current restrictions, only 4 visitors per graduate will be allowed to attend graduation. We apologize for any inconvenience. Both events will be held at Warrior Stadium. 


Director's Update 6.5.20

posted Jun 5, 2020, 10:53 AM by Kurt Dronebarger

Hello everyone,
We are currently working on plans for the next school year. We have a few models in place but have not made an official decision at this point. I, as director, will address our options with the White County School Board at the next scheduled meeting which is Thursday, June 11th. Afterward, I will issue a statement concerning the school system's plan for next year so that everyone involved can make the necessary arrangements. Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation and please continue to make smart decisions in the name of personal and public health. Take care.
Mr. D

Director's Update 5.29.20

posted May 29, 2020, 5:42 AM by Kurt Dronebarger

Hello everyone,
The 2019-20 school year is officially in the books. It was certainly not the ending we expected but I was proud of how we all (families included) handled the changes. WCHS graduation will be held on June 15th. Currently, each graduate is allotted 4 tickets for visitors. This restriction is based on current CDC guidelines and will be monitored and adjusted as more information is offered. At this moment, I do not have any definitive answers concerning the start of school for next year. However, I am meeting weekly with superintendents from the Upper Cumberland and we are creating three separate plans. Plan A is a normal return to school. Plan B is a hybrid of on-site and at-home learning where the students would only come to school a couple of days per week. Plan C is a fully online version of school that would provide more devices and connectivity for families in need and more direct instruction from teachers with recorded lessons, video calls with students, and teacher (not a parent) directed learning. Again, nothing is in stone and we will adapt our plan as we receive more information from state agencies. For now, please listen for phone calls and other information from your child's school. It would also be helpful if students took advantage of the summer reading and learning opportunities that have been provided. If you have any questions, please reach out to your school team (email might be best). Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time. We all want to get back to normal and I pray that will happen soon. Please enjoy your summer break and stay well.

Director's Update 5.16.20

posted May 16, 2020, 3:29 PM by Kurt Dronebarger

Hello all,
This coming week will be the last official week of school on the district calendar. Your school should have contacted you with information regarding report cards and other end-of-year messages. However, if you still have questions, please call your school or teacher (morning hours are best). Please note, plans will be released this coming week explaining how you can still partake of free meals and supplemental academic material well into the month of June. Also, as Governor Lee continues to loosen the restrictions on the state, we will monitor and adjust accordingly. This includes loosening our restrictions on high school graduation. Please watch for updates on this website and listen for phone calls from your school for the most up-to-date information. Although we do not yet know what school will look like in the Fall, rest assured that the White County school district will be prepared to offer the best services possible under the circumstances. Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation during this season and may you and your family stay well. 
                                                                                     Mr.D

Director's Update 5.8.20

posted May 8, 2020, 11:35 AM by Kurt Dronebarger   [ updated May 8, 2020, 12:02 PM ]

Hello White County,
The school system will continue food and schoolwork distribution through Thursday, May 21st. Report cards will be issued on the 21st as well. Please continue to take advantage of learning opportunities and contact your school or teacher for assistance. Office hours remain as 900 am - 1200 pm but should you need help at other times of the day, arrangements can be made. Plans are being made to provide food and schoolwork distribution into the summer months for those who need them. More TBD. Thank you all for your continued cooperation and positive attitude. No one knows what the future holds, but we are planning for a safe return to normal in the Fall. Take care and God bless. 

PS Do not forget to complete the US Census for your household. It is quick, easy, and VERY important to the school system. Please visit: https://my2020census.gov/ and complete the census for your house today!

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