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Tullahoma City Schools has unveiled its “Pathway to Re-entry Plan” for the 2020-2021 school year, and Tullahoma students will return to the classroom July 29.

In an email sent to teachers and parents Thursday afternoon, TCS Director of Schools Catherine Stephens announced the district would be taking certain precautions in order to keep all students and staff members safe in the upcoming year.

Included in those precautions are daily temperature checks for students and conversations with students on the state of their health and wellbeing.

“School health officials will be responsible for evaluating potential COVID-19 symptoms that may require your students to go home and be seen by a healthcare provider,” Stephens said in a joint statement with the leaders of Coffee County and Manchester City Schools. “If your student is sent home, you will be provided the appropriate form to be completed by your healthcare provider for your students to return to school. Appropriate notification will be made when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.”

The plan lays out three different schooling scenarios that will be followed depending on the number of active COVID-19 cases in the county.

As of Thursday, July 9, TCS officials are preparing to welcome students back into the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year, according to Stephens.

This decision was based on the fact that the active case count in Coffee County is still low, meaning the district is in the “minimal spread” pathway at the moment.


Minimal spread pathway

The first pathway is based on a “minimal spread” scenario in the county, with an active case rate of less than 0.5 percent. In this pathway, students will return to school in the traditional model with a typical classroom schedule.

A district-specific distance learning program will also be implemented for students whose parents do not wish for them to attend school in the classroom due to health or other concerns.

In this pathway, some of the health and safety considerations taken include but are not limited to cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and objects throughout the day; teaching, reviewing and reinforcing handwashing and hygiene practices; daily temperature checks upon arrival; encouraging social distancing wherever possible; the “strategic movement of students” between classes; and the recommendations for masks for all faculty, staff and students.


Moderate spread pathway

The second pathway is based on a “moderate spread” scenario, which is defined as an active case rate between 0.5 and 1 percent.

This would automatically trigger a hybrid schooling situation, with modified scheduling and a district-specific distance learning program. The modified scheduling would include a combination of on-site and distance learning.

The health and safety protocols in this pathway are more intensive and include limiting the movement of students inside their buildings, only allowing select after-school activities and deep cleaning surfaces and spaces more frequently. Masks would be highly recommended for all at all times in this scenario, according to the pathway plan.


Substantial spread pathway

The final proposed pathway is based on “substantial spread” of COVID-19 in Coffee County, with an active case rate of higher than 1 percent.

This scenario would immediately move the district into an entirely distance learning program, with no students inside the buildings.

No large gatherings would be allowed, and masks would be required for “all personnel in close-contact spaces.”


Updated information

According to the letter, the plan was developed with current state and health guidelines and it will continue to be monitored and updated as more information becomes available from state and health officials.

“Keeping you informed and up to date is important to us,” the letter reads.

Additionally, Stephens told The News, parents received a new survey that “enables them to select the option they believe best for their child.” Parents can choose either the traditional model or go to full distance learning.

No matter which option parents select, they will be committing to one quarter (nine-week grading period) of whichever option they select, according to Stephens.

The full letter and the pathway plans can be found on our website, tullahomanews.com.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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