Farragut Mayor Ron Williams and Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, along with town administrator David Smoak, dropped off new masks for all in-person students and staff at Farragut schools last week. While there, they chatted with principals about the start of the strangest school year ever. In spite of the challenges of social distancing, taking temperatures and providing virtual learning, it’s going surprisingly well.
“It’s been unbelievably smooth,” says Farragut Primary Principal Gina Byrd. Even drop-off has become uneventful, thanks in part to temperature sensors located just inside the doors to the schools. But lines could lengthen when kindergartners return to school full time this week.
Byrd says some of her staff were initially nervous about the safety of coming back to school, but after students arrived, they were thrilled to return to teaching. One kindergarten teacher told Byrd that she cried during an online conference with parents because she was so happy to be back in the classroom.
At Farragut Intermediate, Assistant Principal Stacy Hilliard says adapting to the county’s new Chromebooks has been technically challenging, but that parents, teachers and support staff have worked together to solve problems.
“The whole community has really come together,” she says. At the same time, she knows the learning curve for adapting to computers in the classroom is steep.
“Every week, there will be something new that pops up, probably.”
With 1,000 students learning in person at Farragut Middle School, the logistics of keeping students safe is a challenge, says Principal Weston Edmonds. Students have seating charts in classrooms and the cafeteria, but that’s to minimize exposure rather than control kids, he says. Students generally take the extra precautions in stride.
“The kids have been just amazing.”
Even at the high school level, students are doing what they’re supposed to do – wearing masks and staying six feet apart – says Principal John Bartlett. The school has 2,040 students, and with 614 of those learning virtually at home, there’s more room than usual at school. Lunchtime is the most challenging part of the day because that’s when friends gather. But with four lunch periods instead of three and plenty of outdoor seating, thanks to a community picnic table drive, students tend to stay in small groups.
Unfortunately, even those who follow the rules will have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID, he says.
“It’s not fair, but nothing’s going to be fair during a pandemic.”
The Town purchased 4,500 masks through the state, and the cost will be reimbursed through the Tennessee CARES Act. Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the CARES Act provides payments to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The goal, says Smoak, was to support Farragut schools and give students and staff something they’ll need in the coming months.
Members of the community can also pick up free masks at Farragut Town Hall and the community center, while supplies last, during regular business hours. Masks are limited to one per person. Youth and adult sizes are available.
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.