Monroe County Schools has closed until after the holiday break due to the lack of available teachers.

According to Monroe County Schools Director Dr. DeAnna McClendon, the schools have encountered an issue during the end of this school semester of maintaining enough substitute teachers to fill in for classes.

“In the last couple of weeks we had a few schools that actually had to go to virtual learning until we had enough adequate staff to cover,” McClendon said. “We actually ended up going remote for the last three days due to several different things.”

Among the reasons provided, McClendon named the increase of COVID-19 cases in the schools.

“There is a matrix system put out by the Tennessee Department of Health regarding school closures and it focuses on what the numbers look like in the community or the number of related cases where (people are) testing positive, such as a sports team or in the classroom,” she noted. “Using that method, we were required to close our schools.”

McClendon will be “watching the numbers carefully” until the first of January.

“The board will make a decision on reopening or remaining closed based on the numbers,” McClendon stated. “I don’t have a prediction for how the next school semester will go because I have been very surprised by how things have gone now.”

The school will follow the guidance issued by health care professionals when deciding on their course throughout the next school semester.

“I find that by listening to them in our district, they are keeping us safe,” she said. “I’m trying to make the data they give us my primary focus.”

With the promise of the new COVID vaccine nearing widespread usage, McClendon believes the current practices will have to remain in place until the threat of the virus has been eliminated.

“My parents have a small mark on their arm from the smallpox vaccine and now most of us don’t have that mark because the likelihood of getting smallpox is very low,” she noted. “I would like to go back and do research about how long the smallpox vaccination began until the virus was virtually eradicated so that I could get an idea of how long the COVID vaccine will take before the virus isn’t much cause for concern.”

Once school reopens, the students will receive their own personal equipment to ensure remote learning is accessible for all students.

“All students in grades 5-12 will receive a Chromebook so on days when they are sick or when we have to go remote, our teachers and students will be able to utilize the technology and continue to engage in their instruction,” said McClendon. “Another thing that we are looking forward to is that the staff is preparing our budget presentations ... and lastly I’m excited that, after speaking to state legislators, they seem to indicate that they agree that teachers should be held harmless from end of the year tests.”

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