Returning to school includes board's Q&A

Posted 7/12/20

Cleveland City Schools has a multi-level response for continuing school during COVID-19, which states that schools may remain open so long as fewer than 1% of the Bradley County population is not …

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Returning to school includes board's Q&A


Cleveland City Schools has a multi-level response for continuing school during COVID-19, which states that schools may remain open so long as fewer than 1% of the Bradley County population is not actively infected with COVID-19. 

As it currently stands, around 0.5% of the county population is confirmed to have an active infection of the novel coronavirus. If this percentage were to hold, in-person classes would continue at Cleveland City Schools with modifications to mitigate the spread among students and teachers. Any more than 1%, and the schools would be forced to close and transition to remote learning. 

The Cleveland Board of Education approved the plan last week after members asked a series of questions on behalf of teachers, families and their own curiosity. 

Mitigating measures

are explained for city

Cleveland City Schools will be requiring teachers to wear masks when they come within six feet of a student. 

Students will be recommended to wear masks and provided one, if necessary. The administration said it may allow teachers to require masks inside their classrooms if they felt uncomfortable working with students without them. 

Special education teachers will be given alternative face coverings to accommodate their students, administrators said. 

Assigned seats and small cohorts of students, as well as modifications to hallway travel and bell schedules, will also be enforced to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

What if a student

comes to school sick? 

“If a student gets off the bus and goes into the building and they get their temperature taken and it's 101,  so the school calls the parents and says ‘Your child is sick. We recommend that you get a COVID test.’ What if the parent doesn't get a COVID test and send the child back to school two days later because the fever is done?” Board chair Dawn Robinson asked. 

Director of the Bradley County Health Department Brittany Hopkins, who was present at the meeting to answer such questions, said she had guidance for that. 

“If the individual with symptoms did not obtain testing, the Department of Health recommends that the individual completes a minimum of 10 days of isolation and that they are symptom-free for 72 hours if they choose to not test.” 

Robinson asked if the school would have to turn away a student thought to be sick or exposed for 10 days, and Hopkins said, “That’s up to you guys on whether you follow the recommendation” or modify it.  

“Our guidance is to treat them as a positive if they present those symptoms,” Hopkins said. 

Hopkins added the most common symptoms for COVID-19 in children were a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. 

One board member asked if the school nurses would be able to conduct a COVID-19 test, rather then sending the child away and asking their parents to take them to the health department. 

“No,” Dr. Jeff Elliott, supervisor of secondary education, said. “The nurses can utilize telemedicine to check flu symptoms or strep, and those traditional types of illnesses, but COVID testing would have to be done elsewhere.” 

Questions regarding

student attendance

Elliott said student attendance for those quarantining from home may not be affected under the new plan. 

Whether students are under few restrictions and practicing in-person learning in a traditional setting, practicing a modified model with some virtual work, or completely remote, completing school work from home will help students stay current on their lessons, he said. 

For teachers, Kelly Kiser, director of human resources, said awaiting results for a COVID-19 test may require the use of sick days, but “it depends” and is regulated by the Families First Coronavirus Act. 

“Under certain qualifying conditions, they can be granted up to two weeks of paid leave for coronavirus symptoms,” Kiser said. “Of course, there's documentation that's required from their doctor, but not necessarily would they lose their traditional sick leave at that point in time, if it was coronavirus-related.” 

Travel restrictions

discussed by Kiser

Chairman pro-tem Krista McKay asked whether the plan would limit travel or ask families to quarantine before returning to school. 

Kelly Kiser, director of human resources, said they have told teachers to be “wary” of traveling to certain areas and have asked them to quarantine after returning from a personal trip, but the plan did not impose that on families. 

Foreign exchange and

extracurricular programs

Board member Peggy Pesterfield asked whether Cleveland High School would continue its foreign exchange student program this year. 

“We met yesterday about that and we are making the decision that we're not going to accept those students this year because of the travel concerns and limitations in place,” Elliott said. 

According to the school district’s plan, the current number of active cases would limit extracurricular activities, as well. 

Following the meeting, the Cleveland Daily Banner reached out to Elliott to confirm what programs that would include and whether sports would continue. 

“We are limiting many after-school activities during this time, such as special family-night school activities, evening PTO meetings, concerts and other in-person group gatherings that may occur during that time,” he said in an email. “We do plan to continue partnering with the YMCA for after-school care for our elementary students. And, some extracurricular activities will take place in small groups with appropriate health protocols being followed.” 

He said sports activities will be decided by a vote from TSSAA. 

A full PDF guide of the school district’s reopening plan can be found on their homepage at 



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