With half of West View Middle School’s seventh graders in COVID-19 quarantine, Dr. Jeff Perry, superintendent of Hamblen County schools, said the system encourages all seventh graders in West View to participate in an optional virtual program starting Thursday.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of cases in our seventh year at West View Middle School,” said Perry. or safely, to instruct all remaining students in person. We will be implementing an optional virtual program for all students (West View) in grade seven starting Thursday August 19th. “
Perry said the program is specific to West View seventh grade students and is not needed, or available, for students at other schools. In fact, Perry noted that four schools in the system had no active cases of COVID-19.
“On August 19, we will be encouraging all (West View) grade seven students to participate virtually,” he said. “However, the school will be open to students (not quarantined) who cannot function well with virtual education, and they can attend school as long as they have no symptoms.”
Perry said the school was operating normally on Wednesday, giving parents a day to consider options and make appropriate arrangements.
Perry said the virtual training would only last about a week.
“The optional virtual program for this group of students will cease on August 27 and students are expected to come to class in person on August 30 as long as they are symptom-free,” said Perry. “This short period of time will allow us to more effectively identify these students as positive because they will have time to show symptoms. We hope this will allow us to stop the spread of the virus in our school. “
The announcement came a day after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee essentially declared all attempts by local school districts to curb the spread of the disease through mask warrants moot. Lee issued an executive order allowing parents to opt out of any locally issued mask warrants, saying it was best for parents to make individual decisions about their child’s health.
Hamblen County officials have repeatedly said they are not planning a mask warrant this year. Perry said the governor’s order made any further discussion about a mask warrant unnecessary.
Perry said non-quarantined West View virtual students will still have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular events as long as they have completed all necessary homework and are in good standing with the school.
Students cannot return to school if they show symptoms or have been quarantined by the school.
The move comes as the list of students infected with COVID-19 grows. On Monday, the system reported 34 new student cases and five staff cases. On Tuesday, 32 new cases of additional students and only one new staff case were reported.
Growing infections in the school system match the relative trend in the region and across the country. Hamblen County received some measure of good news on Tuesday after a jump of 65 new cases over the weekend, the total number of active cases in the county rose from 607 to 574. This is only the second times in a month that the number of active Hamblen cases has plummeted.
The high number of active cases is straining hospital resources across the country.
In Hamblen County, hospital officials say the increase in COVID cases has been significant.
“This increase is causing delays in our emergency department, and we ask for your patience,” said a spokesperson for the hospital. “Of the current cases of COVID, more than 80% are not vaccinated. People who are vaccinated and suffer from COVID see fewer symptoms than those who are not vaccinated.
“The hospital encourages everyone to get the vaccine because this variant is more contagious and spreads more among young adults and children than the previous strain.”
While the vaccine does not completely prevent recipients from contracting COVID-19, it significantly reduces the chances. And vaccinated people who contract the disease are much less likely to have severe symptoms.
Medical experts encourage getting vaccinated, wearing a mask indoors, and following good social distancing and hygiene practices.