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Learning Way goes remote

State waivers a week at home

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 1/20/22

Bedford County Board of Education approved several departmental reports Tuesday—those which demonstrated that the school system is in good financial and academic standing. Still, school health …

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Thursday online news topic

Learning Way goes remote

State waivers a week at home


Bedford County Board of Education approved several departmental reports Tuesday—those which demonstrated that the school system is in good financial and academic standing. Still, school health was reported to be an ongoing issue, with COVID-19 cases pushing Learning Way Elementary to remote learning this week.

Director of Bedford County Schools Tammy Garrett told the board that she applied for a waiver on Tuesday for Learning Way Elementary to transfer temporarily to remote instruction. Compared to last year, state rules are now a little different when needing to close a school due to COVID-19.

Garrett explained if the entire system closes because of COVID, the state requires that a stock pile day be used. (Days set aside each year as an insurance policy to guard against having to make up time due to closures for inclement weather and outbreak of illness.)

Garrett said fortunate for Bedford County, individual schools and classrooms can still receive waivers from the Tennessee Department of Education for remote learning. Learning Way posted on its website Wednesday: “Due to the large number of students and staff quarantined or in isolation, Learning Way will be doing virtual learning from January 19-21.

Today, students will bring home laptops and work needed for the next 3 days. They will need to log into Microsoft Teams each morning to be counted present. Your child’s teacher will be working with them through Teams for the next 3 days. If you do not have WiFi, you will need to check in with your child’s teacher through Class Dojo. Families that contact their teacher on DoJo without Wi-fi will be counted present.  

The school days will run as close to normal as possible. All students should be logged into their laptops by 7:30 tomorrow morning. Your child's teacher will call them at appropriate times. Our number one goal is for all students and staff to be safe and well.  Thank you for understanding the need to go virtual in hopes of stopping the spread.”

“We applied for our first waiver today, Garrett told the board. “It was approved very quickly. So Learning Way will go on remote for the remainder of the week. When you have a remote setting . . . no extracurricular activities at the school, so that we can make sure we can get the numbers down.”

As well, Garrett said the state requires that operations, such as cafeteria and bus service, are being impacted. “They want the doors open, if you can possibly open them,” the superintendent explained to the board.

New school discussions?

There were no discussions during Tuesday’s 30 minute board meeting about school facility improvements. The board will instead conduct a “planning meeting” 5 p.m. Monday at the Central Office conference room. The superintendent said a special presentation will be made Monday night.

She advised how the planning meeting was requested so that her office might get “a vision” from the board regarding future school facilities. Garrett said a facilities report, conducted by an appointed Central Office committee, was given to the board in December, she said.

Garrett advised the board it’s now time to establish where they want to go next. “As we plan for the development of programs and things, it’s essential that we know the vision of the board for facilities,” Garrett said.

Land lease recommendations

The board approved for two land lease recommendations for “unimproved property.” The board agreed to lease 57 acres behind Liberty School to James Warner for $10,000 and to lease 10 acres adjacent to Cascade High School to Robert West for $1,000. Awarded to the highest bidders, the leases are good for the next 3 years, but the board can terminate their agreements anytime after a 30 day notice.

Policy changes

The wording of several school system policies was addressed and approved Tuesday. (Board members Nicole Cashion and Brian Crews were absent.)
Garrett explained, “Tonight, you will see that a lot of these policies are just wording changes.” In the system’s fiscal management goals policy, Garrett added the word “superintendent,” noting this area is her responsibility, not just the board’s, as previously stated.

Under the “curriculum development” policy, there were a lot of markings. “What we’re doing is just streamlining this. It was very wordy.”

The superintendent said there will be an appointed committee from her office, by authorization of the board, which will be charged with organizing those committees which participate in curriculum development, revisions and updates.

Board member Glenn Forsee said that that he highly approved of a special education policy revision. “I like this very much . . . cleaned up and gives our administration and teachers some discretion on a case by case situation to monitor and adjust.” Forsee was referring to a revision under “objectives” within the special education policy which assures students will receive proper age appropriate placement.

An instructional materials policy (one adapted from Tennessee School Board Association) had several revisions per TSBA recommendations. Forsee asked Garrett to clarify the timeline for adoption of textbooks, that is, in advance of calendar year implementation.

“It usually takes a whole year to review it. Right now, we’re doing a pilot with our math curriculum . . . a couple of teachers willing to use it. We hope that this will help us get a head start to see how they’re used.”

Garrett said normally parents have a couple of weeks to review the materials. “The laws changed this time . . . we have to have our textbooks posted online. At our next adoption, the companies are having to make sure there is a way for us to post them online so that parents have greater access to those materials.”

Forsee asked if there’s a timeline in the spring semester when a new textbook adoption would be implemented. “They have not told us the timeline yet . . . as soon as the state comes out with it,” Garrett said.

This she knows, within next school year, students will have new math textbooks.
Board member Diane Neeley clarified that the school system has always made tangible textbooks available for public review before they’re adopted. They are normally located at the Central Office, she said.

Referring to the “prayer and period of silence,” school policy, Garrett told the board, “This policy has not been revised in several years. I did research on what other systems are doing and what we should do.”

Garrett said it’s her understanding that the former Sunday service before graduation (baccalaureate) was stopped several years ago. “I’m recommending that we get within compliance and just remove [sections] 6-8,” Garrett advised. “And I have checked with all counties near us; they have the same thing.”

One board member asked if that means baccalaureate is now allowed. The superintendent said while reference to the baccalaureate service has been completely removed from policy, it is still against state law for a school system or the board to sponsor religious activities or events.

“I’ve checked with several principals today. I can definitely find out when the law changed, but it did.”

Board member John Boutwell said before approving the policy, “It is, what it is.”
Chair Michael Cook added, “Nobody’s saying during that moment of silence that no one can pray. It’s just saying it won’t be directed by us [the board.]”

Financial Reports

Bedford County Finance Director Robert Daniel shared the county is ahead in its sales tax collections by $198,000, compared to the same time last year. “Sales tax has been pretty consistent every month.”

Daniel reminded that the state sales tax collection report typically runs two months behind to the Trustee’s office, so his report is actually based on October sales tax collections.

Board member Boutwell asked Daniel if this sales tax revenue increase was due to the newly implemented internet sales tax. “We tried to budget some of that this year,” explained Daniel. “We were conservative in our budget.”

The internet sales tax started last April, when online retailers in Tennessee began making revenue from out-of-state sales, based on a Supreme Court ruling.