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Sullivan schools closed Tuesday for flu, but Wednesday parent-teacher conferences a go

Rick Wagner • Feb 3, 2020 at 12:29 PM

UPDATE: Flu, not snow, has helped close another local school system for the first time in the 2019-20 school year.

Students, teachers and staff illnesses have led to a “critical point,” and the closure of Sullivan County Schools on Tuesday. Some substitute teachers and contracted school bus drivers are sick as well.

The public school system will be closed Tuesday in an attempt to break the cycle of flu and other viruses and illnesses, Director of Schools David Cox said. He added that Wednesday’s parent-teacher conferences still will be held as scheduled, although illness could cancel some of those, too.

“Parents who have conferences scheduled on Wednesday are asked to contact their schools on Wednesday morning prior to their conference time in case of teacher illness and subsequent need to cancel conferences,” advised the school system’s website at www.sullivank12.net/.

He said staff will clean the schools Tuesday and Wednesday when students are not there.

Cox said that cleaning, coupled with a break in human-to-human contact that spreads the flu and other illnesses, is the second punch in the school system’s two-pronged assault on flu season 2020. Neighboring Hawkins County Schools closed Friday and had teachers and other staff clean Thursday evening or Friday for the same reason, giving students a three-day weekend.

Although the school system overall still is hovering around the 90-91% student attendance rate, Cox said that 11 of the 21 schools had more absences Monday than Friday. He said the issue is not just with students but with teachers and administrators, adding that a perennial shortage of school bus drivers, who work for contractors except for a few special education bus drivers working for the county, and substitute teachers also is taking its toll.

“We had about 33 sub jobs (substitute teacher jobs) that went unfilled today (Monday),” Cox said. “Some of our subs are sick.”

This marks the first day off for Sullivan County Schools this year, although it had one delayed start earlier in the school year.

“At this point, we’re out Tuesday and parent conferences are Wednesday. That’s a no-student day,” Cox said Monday afternoon in a phone interview from the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents in Nashville.

“We are going to go ahead with conferences (Wednesday). Then we will evaluate,” Cox said, adding that the plan is to return to school Thursday as a regular day.

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BLOUNTVILLE – Sullivan County schools will be closed Tuesday.

School officials say that because of illness among staff, students, administrators and bus drivers, the school district will not operate Tuesday. However, parent-teacher conferences will go on as scheduled on Wednesday and Friday.

Parents who have conferences scheduled on Wednesday are asked to contact their schools that morning prior to their conference in case of teacher illness and a subsequent need to cancel the conference.

Check back with timesnews.net later on this developing story.

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