KINGSPORT — On Wednesday morning, Kingsport City Schools will start giving daily instead of weekly updates on COVID-19 cases in the school system.
And school officials will discuss protocols for the virus during the Aug. 24 work session.
Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse told the Board of Education about the resumption of daily updates during Tuesday’s voting school board meeting, urging the use of masks and vaccinations in the fight against COVID-19 and to keep schools operating in-person instead of going back to virtually.
On Tuesday night, based on data as of Aug. 6, the information showed 19 cases at Dobyns-Bennett High School; 11 at Robinson Middle; five at Jefferson Elementary; three at Lincoln Elementary; two each at Sevier Middle, Washington Elementary, Kennedy Elementary and Jackson Elementary; and one at D-B EXCEL.
Palmer Early Learning Center, Adams, Johnson and Roosevelt elementaries had none, as did Cora Cox Academy and the district categories.
“We want families to feel knowledgeable in that as they make decisions,” Moorhouse said. “Starting tomorrow (Wednesday), I will be wearing my mask as I go into buildings.”
He was not masked up during the meeting, but other central office staff were, including Assistant Superintendents Andy True and Rhonda Stringham, Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash and Nursing Supervisor Vicki Johnston.
Board of Education President Jim Welch, who wore a mask, said he could not allow anyone wanting to address COVID protocols to speak during public comments since it was not an agenda item.
Requesting to speak on non-agenda items requires three days’ written notice under board policy. Welch said he’d gotten some calls in the past few days inquiring about public comment on COVID protocols.
The non-voting board work sessions do not have public comment, although a COVID-19 policy change would not require a board vote.
The school system disseminated its current protocols, which recommend but do not require masks except on school buses, per federal mandate, immediately after Moorhouse presented them to the board at its July 27 work session.
As for the daily COVID-19 updates broken down by schools, board member Todd Golden asked if the updates could split the adult and student cases at each school instead of just lumping them together.
Moorhouse responded that doing so could tend to identify an individual when cases were only one or low at a location, potentially breaking federal health privacy laws, although he said Golden’s suggestion to give an aggregate breakdown of adult and student cases across the district might solve that issue. Welch suggested Moorhouse run that by City Attorney Mike Billingsley before doing it.
In other matters:
• Moorhouse said a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for students will be held Saturday, Aug. 21, and one for employees Friday, Aug. 27, at D-B.
• The board, in voting on six policies on first and final reading, approved one that reflects Tennessee law by saying if COVID-19 vaccinations were ever required, exemptions for “religious tenets and practices” would be allowed. The other five policies were mostly housekeeping, many to reflect state law or law changes.
• The board voted 3-2, with Welch, Melissa Woods and Brandon Fletcher voting yes and Vice President Julie Byers and Golden voting no, to approve the Advanced Placement and honors courses at Dobyns-Bennett High School for 2021-22. The matter of contention was allowing those in wind symphony, a spring singleton course, to earn weighted honors credit for doing a term paper and other extra work. Byers made a motion to remove the symphony honors class until more information could be provided, including a uniform grading policy plan, but it died for lack of a second.
• Moorhouse said enrollment for Tuesday was 7,350 compared to 7,334 for the seventh day of the 2019-20 school year, the last one to begin without COVID-19 protocols. That represents a gain of 16 students. In high school, the enrollment was 2,387 Tuesday, up compared to 2,308 the same day two years ago; middle schools were 1,718, down compared to 1,775 two years ago; and elementary schools were 3,245, down slightly compared to 3,251 in 2019.