Sullivan schools continue feeding, educating students during pandemic closing

Rick Wagner • Apr 26, 2020 at 9:12 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Not only are Sullivan County Schools students continuing to learn and teachers continuing to teach during the novel coronavirus school closing, but students are getting free meals and extra academic and mental health help where needed.

And county school officials said teachers also are getting help navigating online learning, as well as continuing to progress in license renewals and transitioning from student teachers to teachers.

During Thursday evening’s online school board meeting, school officials gave an overview of what the system, its employees and students have been doing since schools closed in mid-March. They will not reopen for in-person learning for the 2019-20 academic year.


The feeding program, which provides free breakfasts and lunches to all 18 or younger, no residency or enrollment required, grew from feeding 3,806 meals the first day to 18,000 on April 21, school nutrition supervisor Amber Anderson told the board.

All told, the program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture has feed 111,045 as of Thursday at five feeding locations and using 30 buses for deliveries. As of Thursday, Anderson said, 1,009 students were receiving meals by bus.

Central office supervisor Sarah Akard said 642 employees signed up to help with feeding, plus community volunteers, and that the United Way, Poplar Ridge Church, Colonial Heights Christian Church and Walmart have helped, as have Second Harvest Food Bank, Food City and Eastman Credit Union in getting additional food to students and their families.

In addition, she said a special English language learners bus visits students each Tuesday and Friday, giving out three breakfasts and three lunches per student as well as having ELL teachers onboard to interact with students while using social distancing. 


Cox and business manager Ingrid DeLoach said the system has already been refunding money for cancelled field trips and other activities and is awaiting guidance from the Comptroller of the Treasury Office and Tennessee School Boards Association on refunding money for such trips generated by fundraising.


Elementary education supervisor Robin McClellan said printed and online learning included 21,600 delivered packages and digital learning including the myON reading program, as well as Pre-K “whole child” programs and English, math and social studies in the other grades.

Middle school education supervisor Billy Miller said instructional coaches are working with teachers on things like Google Classroom and Google Hangout, while high school education supervisor Brent Palmer said teachers are collaborating in the use of Google Classroom, Google Meet and videos.

Aaron Flanary said career technical education, which he oversees as a supervisor, is on track to have 14 dual enrollment students graduate from Northeast State with technical certificates as well as from their high school with a diploma. Palmer said Sullivan North High band students are submitting performances virtually to the band director there.

As for remote learning, technology supervisor Karen Nave said the system’s efforts have generated almost 20,000 web page views, of which almost 18,000 were unique. The system also has distributed so far 1,538 Chromebooks and 112 iPads.

She also said emotional and social support is available through a mental health contract with Frontier Health and other sources, while human resources head Wendell Smith said that despite a one-year extension of the Aug. 31, 2020 deadline to get teacher licenses renewed, only six licenses had been renewed. And of 27 teachers up for tenure, 21 have been recommended for it so far.

In middle school athletics, Smith said volleyball and football schedules for middle school are underway for 2020-21 and that Blountville Middle is moving from AA to A status because of an enrollment decrease.



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