During its regular meeting, the Hopkins County Board of Education unanimously approved the district’s reopening plan.

Over the academic year, students will have the possibility of four learning methods: remote learning, the hybrid model, non-traditional instruction, and the district’s ultimate goal of full in-person classes after COVID-19 restrictions lift.

Supt. Dr. Deanna Ashby said remote learning is an opportunity for students who are uncomfortable wearing a mask or have a medical condition that prevents them from attending in-person learning.

The hybrid model is where students go to class two days a week and then have non-traditional instruction three days a week. Ashby said they intend to get back to full in-person learning.

“We will revisit the hybrid model prior to fall break with our teachers and our student to see where we are, especially with the trajectory of the virus at that point,” she said.

With school starting Wednesday, Aug. 26, board member Dr. J.W. Durst voiced concerns he heard from several parents regarding child care during with hybrid model.

“It adds an incredible amount of challenge,” he said. “I’m just concerned for those folks that don’t have a solution to child care and what our solution is going to be for that. If they don’t have it, and their parents have to go to work — what solution can we offer them?”

Ashby said she didn’t disagree with him. Since the beginning, she said she wasn’t in favor of this model because of the strain it puts on parents to find child care. Ashby hopes this model will work for the district because it eases everyone back into school while reducing class sizes.

Board Attorney Keith Cartwright said he attended a meeting with Dr. Ashby and Dr. Andy Belcher, the district’s director of assessment, where they met with the Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce and several other local businesses.

“... You’re going to see a lot of employers being creative,” he said. “... Dr. Ashby said it’s a nationwide problem that’s not unique to Hopkins County, but I think our business community is aware of it, they’re trying to address it the best they can.”

Ashby said although the district has set its plan to return with both the hybrid model and the remote learning model, it may come from the state level to start the school year with non-traditional instruction.

Along with approving the reopening plan, the board also approved revised designs for the new Hanson Elementary School.

The board talked with Andrew Owens of Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects about the school’s new traffic flow. Durst asked Owens if this new layout solves the problem that caused a lot of frustration for parents in the past.

The new traffic pattern anticipates its full capacity of 600 students, Owens said, adding that it would solve their problem. However, during the meeting, the board realized that parking spaces were limited, as the main parking lot could only hold 100 cars.

Dr. Ashby said on days like grandparents’ day or other significant events, the school easily saw 600 to 700 cars, and parking had always been a problem. Owens said they would look over their plans and will address the issue.

The board also heard from the district’s Director of Finance Eydie Tate regarding the district’s unaudited annual financial report. She said the general fund’s ending balance for the year was $10.2 million.

“I’m always pleased to share with you that Hopkins County has a financially stable financial statement. We always do more with less,” she said. “This is the highest fund balance our general fund has had in the 10 years that I have been in this position, and I’m very proud of that.”

Tate said the balance is an increase in $1.7 million, which she attributed to the pandemic.

The board will have a special-called meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss a waiver for tennis.

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