Maryville City Schools welcomed back students on Thursday, the same week Blount County and Oak Ridge Schools started.
Students with the last names starting with A-K attended Thursday, while students with last names starting with L-Z started Friday. Younger students are encouraged to wear masks when distancing is difficult and older students are expected to wear masks.
District spokeswoman Sharon Anglim said she was at three schools Thursday morning and said having less students at each building made temperature checks go smoothly.
“We had several goals for this staggered start and much of it was to create a sense of comfort and allow both staff and students to learn new procedures and protocols around COVID, to get oriented,” Anglim told Knox News. “It’s important to us that students and teachers build relationships. This staggered start is the first step to forming relationships.”
Fourth graders and up will attend school on a staggered schedule for the first two weeks of school. That means they will go to school in-person on some days and attend virtually on other days. The district said it will re-evaluate this plan every two weeks, unless it receives a mandate to switch things up.
Leaders are using three main metrics to drive decisions: staff and student attendance rates, new Blount County case counts and active cases in the county.
Anglim said she’s “hopeful” students who selected in-person can begin attending school every day soon.
The district also offered a virtual option for students and an option where older students could do virtual learning but take classes like culinary arts or construction in person.
Loudon County Schools will start Aug. 7, Anderson County schools will start Aug. 10, Sevier County Schools and Knox County Schools are slated to start Aug. 17.
Gov. Bill Lee and state education commissioner Penny Schwinn said they want schools to reopen in-person and that district-wide closures should be rare at a Tuesday news conference. Despite that announcement, nearly 25% of the state’s public school students will start remotely.