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Hawkins County Schools, Rogersville City now closed until April 20

Jeff Bobo • Mar 20, 2020 at 1:39 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Anyone who has watching the COVID-19 situation develop in recent weeks across the world, as well as here in Northeast Tennessee, probably was surprised by Friday’s announcement that Hawkins County Schools will now be closed another month. 

Director of Schools Matt Hixson issued a press releasing stating that due to ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns and in adherence to President Trump’s 15-day social distancing recommendation, Hawkins County Schools will remain closed through April 17, with a target return date of April 20.

Hixson noted that Rogersville City Schools, which receives busing service from the county school system, will follow this same schedule in collaboration with HCS.

As of Friday, no COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in Hawkins County, but there is one each in Sullivan, Hamblen and Greene counties and two new cases in Washington County.

Drive-thru lunch extended

During this closure, the county school system will continue to provide drive-thru lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to all Hawkins County and RCS students 18 and younger from six locations including Bulls Gap School, Mooresburg Elementary, Clinch, Hawkins Elementary, Surgoinsville Elementary and Church Hill Elementary.

That includes next week, which previously had been excluded due to its being spring break and planned time off from school already.

Hixson said, “We will continue to support our students through our teachers’ efforts and those of our instructional assistants who are calling and maintaining contact during this closure.

“The Central Office and all services associated with central operations will work split shifts maintaining communication via email and phone calls,” Hixson continued. “When not present at the office, employees will be working remotely from home in adherence to the president’s recommendations. The Central Office will be closed on Wednesdays for cleaning.”

Q&A with Matt Hixson

KTN: How will this closure affect the end of the school year and graduation?

Hixson: The end-of-the-year requirements are largely being waived by the state legislature in case school does not reopen prior to the end of the year. State testing, finals, end-of-course assessments are now all considered optional.

KTN: Are all spring sports canceled, or will you try to pick them back up when school resumes?

Hixson: Spring sports are cancelled at this point. Teams we were set to play are also under school closures. Some systems have varying dates for closures, which make rescheduling any of the games/matches a nightmare.

KTN: How will this affect state testing?

Hixson: State testing is optional. Any school system who chooses not to test or those that can’t will not be penalized.

KTN: Is it possible to engage your Virtual Academy on a larger scale now for children who have access to the Internet to keep up with their lessons?

Hixson: Because we have limited staff in the Virtual Academy, we aren’t able to add students at this time. We maxed out the pilot year numbers and actually far exceeded what we expected for our first year enrollment.

KTN: Is there another plan for that?

Hixson: Our classroom teachers made excellent work of free resources like Google Classroom and other online materials to create materials accessible to students for the shutdown. We also ran paper packets of the same type of materials and delivered them, or made them available to those who do not have online access. Teachers and support staff will maintain communication with students and parents throughout the closures. Materials will continue to be assembled. We had roughly two weeks’ worth of materials by the end of our last day, Monday. Many added several weeks to those totals before they left Wednesday.

KTN: Is there anything positive that we can take away from this situation so far?

Hixson: Our HCS family has really come together and performed some awesome work for our community and students. I’ve seen teachers, instructional assistants, administrators, and volunteers feeding kids. I saw staff driving to remote sections of our county delivering packets on Tuesday and Wednesday. The positives will be endless through these tough times. You just have to look around and be amazed at the love our staff has for our students and their families.

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