Coronavirus Pandemic Leads to School Closures and School Event Cancellations and Postponements
April 7, 2020
As the coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, state and Hamilton County officials made the decision to convert to online learning to slow the virus’ spread. This has led to many planned events, such as prom, the spring play, and graduation, to be postponed indefinitely while health officials try to find a way to mitigate the crisis.
Hamilton County Schools Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, was declared a pandemic on March 11 by the World Health Organization. The first case was detected in Wuhan, China, and has transcended to many European and Asian countries. It was first confirmed in the United States in early January in the state of Washington, but has spread to many states since then. The amount of Coronavirus victims in the U.S. has soared to over one thousand cases, having been found in around 44 states. Tennessee is among the states affected, with 26 confirmed cases as of March 13. Hamilton County announced that a case was confirmed that same day.
“I honestly feel scared because my teachers said they’ve never seen anything like this before. Usually schools do anything and everything to keep us in school, and the fact that we have two weeks off is worrying,” stated Junior Karen Castillo.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee declared a state of emergency on March 12; his declaration included additional funding and the deregulation of assistance for affected areas. His state of emergency led the Hamilton County Department of Education to take serious measures in regards to preventing the widely-spread virus from reaching students and faculty after one case was confirmed in the county today, March 13.
The Department of Education has taken precautionary measures in case of an emergency, and, as a result, have decided to cancel all schools in the district.
Beginning March 16 through 20, students are confirmed to be out of school; however, it may be extended to the 27, although it is not official. The district is working closely with the Hamilton County Board of Education to move spring break to the week of March 23 through March 27.
Spring break was originally scheduled for April 3 through 10, but according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, spring break will be voted on to be rescheduled by the board on Monday, March 16. If this plan takes effect, families who have already planned vacation trips for the month of April will be excused from absences throughout the week. As of now, they anticipate that students will not come back to school until March 3o. This also means that school trips and sporting events will be cancelled until then.
“I understand a lot of the underclassmen are excited to be missing school, but I’m a little worried as a senior since I’m taking on online class for statistics and can’t take my required tests,” stated Senior Patrick Quinn. “Also, it is my last season that I can play soccer, and missing these two school weeks is going to cause us to miss a large amount of our season, and may even cause it to be completely cancelled. Needless to say, I’m not the happiest camper.”
District administrators met with school principals Thursday, March 12, to discuss how learning will go about while school is out. Principal Phil Iannarone has worked with Central’s faculty to create a smooth transition for the upcoming week.
Central High has given students the opportunity to choose between paper and online work. Teachers were given instructions to hand out packets of work for students who chose physical copies after a survey was conducted that allowed students to select their preferred method of learning.
Packets for all core English and mathematics were readily available for students in the cafeteria during all three lunches; teachers are encouraged to use Canvas or Google Classroom to connect with students as well. Many educators have turned to using the app Remind to let students know about upcoming assignments.
The school will be opened March 16 to 20 only for students or parents concerned about getting assignments. Staff emails can be accessed at any time through the directory of the school’s website for means of communication.
The district works closely with the local Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The leadership team monitors updates on the coronavirus and continues to plan for future outbreaks in an effort to maintain a safe environment for Hamilton County citizens.
With that being said, there are no exceptions to promoting the general rules of cleanliness such as: washing one’s hands for 20 seconds, avoiding contact with those who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and sanitizing commonly used surfaces.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the disease is derived from animals, but can easily spread to people. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when people sneeze, cough, or even exhale. Affected individuals are able to pass it on to the next person through bodily fluids. One person is able to infect two to three people; therefore, it is important to avoid contact with anyone who is sick. The virus seems to survive for many hours on commonly contacted surfaces such as tables and door handles, however, frequently disinfecting them will prevent the virus from spreading even more.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke advised the community to stay in social isolation, which he detailed in his safety update email. Elders and those with respiratory problems are likely to have more severe symptoms. Although fatalities are low among those infected, it is still important to keep away from those who are ill.
Hamilton County’s Shutdown Due to COVID-19 Brings Postponements and Cancellations
Hamilton County recently joined the thousands of school districts across the world temporarily shutting down campuses due to COVID-19 fears. The virus, which started its reign in November of last year, has spread to all continents besides Antarctica, infecting hundreds of thousands. Because of the virus’s startling speed of spread, Hamilton County officials decided to shut down schools for two weeks to combat the infection; a case of the virus has recently been confirmed in the area, and county officials do not want the virus making its way through schools.
March is one of the school year’s busiest months and roughly half of it has just been cut out. These events are either being met with cancellations or postponements, as no school events can be held over the next two weeks. This includes spring sporting games and practices that have been cancelled until March 30 and will resume after students are back in school.
According to 10 and 11 grade Guidance Counselor Chelsea Thornhill, the original nationwide ACT testing date for juniors has been moved from March 17 to April 21. The ACT will still be taken at school and will be free to all juniors.
The eighth grade visit for Brown Middle School students was originally scheduled for March 19, but it has been postponed. At the moment, ninth grade Counselor Karen Atkins does not know the new exact date of the visit, as she has to accommodate with the middle school schedule, but she is working very hard to make sure it can happen before the end of the school year.
Report cards for the third quarter will continue to be sent out on Friday, March 20. This date has not been changed, as the report cards are going to be sent online. All grades were put in this week and report cards should be ready by the set date.
College Adviser Stacy Alexander had a college trip planned for select juniors on March 23. Students were going to visit the campus of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). This field trip is cancelled until further notice, but Ms. Alexander hopes to reschedule it as soon as possible.
AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and anatomy students were planned to attend a field trip to the Bodies Exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia on March 24. According to Biology and anatomy Teacher Tina Cotreau, she will be in talks with Principal Phil Iannarone to reschedule the trip.
“I’m hopeful that a reschedule will work and we don’t have to cancel. I don’t want the student to miss out on it,” said Cotreau.
JROTC was scheduled to hold their formal inspection on March 25; this is going to be rescheduled and modified. The new date of the inspection is not decided yet, but JROTC instructors are aiming for it to be held in early April. Cadets will know the date by the time schools resume. Colonel Brooks, who is head of the Hamilton County JROTC department, will not attend Central’s inspection as he normally does. The inspection will be less formal than it usually is, so the class can better compensate for lost time.
Theatre II students and Teacher Ms. Kelsay Cate were originally going to hold their play “Oz” on Friday, March 27. The play will be rescheduled, but Cate does not know the exact date.
“I’m not sure when the play will be yet. I’m hoping we’ll be able to reschedule. We’re hoping to still have the performance- just at a later date. We just received a donation from DonorsChoose of wireless microphones and we were funded by Walt Disney company in New York. Hopefully, we’ll be able to use the microphones and continue to get ready for the tentative new date,” shared Cate.
Central’s choir had planned a field trip to Dollywood for March 28. Dollywood has allowed them to postpone the trip to a later date at the same price. Choir Instructor Katheron Latham does not have a specific date planned yet, but she is looking to hold the trip sometime in May.
According to Principal Iannarone, end of course (EOC) testing dates are not being changed at the moment. EOC test dates are decided by the state’s education department, the department judges state that schools are still on track to meet the test dates. These test dates will only be moved if the county-wide shutdown is increased past the original two weeks.
For further updates, visit the Hamilton County Department of Education website, where county officials will be continuously posting updates. If you have any specific questions, you can find the contact information for all Central faculty here.
Hamilton County Schools Extend Shutdown Date to April 24 and Implement Student Resources
Recently, the entire country has felt the effect of the chaos originating from the quickly-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Stores have been out of stock, restaurants have closed dine-in services, and many large events have been cancelled. One of the largest groups of people to feel the effects of the outbreak are students. In-person schooling has been shutdown, and entire curriculums have been moved online in many counties across the U.S., including Hamilton County.
Last week, Hamilton County announced that it would be shutting down schools until March 30. Many students were upset about the return date, as the county was planning to move spring break from early April to the last week of March, which conflicted with many students’ scheduled plans. However, on March 24, it was announced that the school closures would be extended to April 24 in order to avoid any changes to the yearly school calendar and keep all members of the county safe.
In order to keep students calm during the sudden and chaotic change, Central High School, as well as Hamilton County, is providing resources to ease the adjustment into online schooling.
One of the main resources Central is providing are a school counselor websites to easily provide information to students, as well as keep them informed while out of school.
“My goal with the website was to create a place for 10th and 11th grade students to find support and information all in one place. I will also be using it to put up articles, printable items, other helpful resources for my kiddos. I wanted to make a one-stop-shop for my students to find what they need without having to constantly be looking in their emails for links or information I had sent,” shared Central’s 10th and 11th grade school counselor Chelsea Thornhill.
In addition, Central has provided bins outside of the school to allow students to drop off their work. The drop-off bin and school office are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m .,and teachers are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The county has implemented programs such as help hotlines, low-cost internet options, and student device pickup. One of the most beneficial programs being implemented is student meal delivery. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, buses will use select routes to drop off meals to students and families. Meal pickup is also available at select schools in the county. The bus routes and schools offering meal pickup are listed on the Hamilton County Department of Education’s website.
“I feel like the programs are a massive help to the students and families. Each student is able to stay caught up with the work they’re missing, and students that rely on school for meals are getting them if needed,” shared Junior R’Iana Taylor.
Overall, counties and schools across the country are taking the extra step in order to keep students and parents well informed and provided for during these difficult times of isolation. More updates and information on school closures and resources can be found on Hamilton County’s website and contact information for teachers and faculty members can be found on Central’s directory.
Prom, Superintendent’s Banquet, and Other Senior Events Postponed
Due to the recent pandemic that has put the world on pause, many seniors are worried about how they will end their high school career. Many school events have been postponed, while other events have not, and there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding the situation.
“I’m not as devastated as other people about the dates changing. I understand completely why they are happening,” said one senior, Mayra Salgado, “As long as prom and graduation are not cancelled, I really won’t be mad.”
The mandatory Tennessee (TN) Promise Webinar is due April 3. Students should have received an email requesting them to watch the webinar that contained a link to the video. The video must be watched in its entirety in order for students to remain eligible for the TN Promise scholarship. To view the webinar, click here. For more information about what the Tennessee Promise the and what institutions it covers, click here.
At the moment, the Superintendent’s Honor Banquet has been cancelled, and a new date has yet to be decided. The Superintendent’s Honor Banquet is held in order to recognize students who have achieved a spot in the top ten percent of the senior class.
May 7 is the current date for Class Night. The location is at Bayside Baptist Church, and the event is set to begin at 6:00 p.m.
Senior Night will be hosted on May 8 at Central High School at 9:30 a.m.
Prom will now be held on May 9. The location is still at the mill and it will still be from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Tickets are still on sale for $50.00 each, and both seniors and juniors are allowed to buy tickets. Contact Tina Cotreau via email in order to purchase prom tickets. To contact teachers, use this directory.
On May 12, seniors will finally get to walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas. Students must attend graduation practice, which begins at 9:30 a.m. The graduation ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m at the McKenzie Arena. Although this set date has not changed, many students have been worried about graduation and wonder if they will be able to experience the ceremony.
“As long as graduation happens mostly on time, I’ll be alright with other senior event dates changing,” said Grant Scutt.
For now, school will be closed until April 24. Students will resume their classes on April 27.
Administration said that it is up to students and their families to decide whether or not to cancel their dress and tuxedo orders. With the uncertainty regarding being able to return to normal classes, no one is sure that students will be able to finish the 2019-2020 school year in class. They recommend that students check with store policies on return information. If students do return their clothing and the events do not end up being cancelled, administration will allow for “alternatives to formal attire” at school events such as Senior Day and prom.
Seniors that have not yet ordered their yearbook can do so here.
Principal Iannarone Provides General Information for Students While Learning From Home
During the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to adjust to new circumstances. Students and families may be struggling keeping up with information about school while learning from home. At Central, the staff is trying their best to stay in contact with families and keep them updated. Principal Phil Iannarone has provided answers to a lot students questions in hopes of being a helping hand during this crisis.
Although Hamilton County Schools are closed until April 24, there will still be staff working at Central’s campus.
“The school office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., pending any additional changes that may come our way,” Iannarone said in an e-mail.
Some students took home paper packets of work, while other students, such as seniors, may have important forms, such as scholarships, to turn-in. Although the school building may be closed, it is still possible to turn such documents in.
“If a student needs to turn in paper copies of work, blue bins have been labeled and placed outside the front doors and are available. Returned work is collected and made available to teachers,” Iannarone stated.
Iannarone understands that parents and students will have questions and concerns during this time.
“Staff e-mails are listed on school website, or at the hcde.org site under schools, under Central high, under directory,” Iannarone clarified.
Many students are upset that events, such as Central’s Academic Awards Day and prom, have also been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Principal Iannarone wanted to remind everyone that the school staff has no control over the cancellations and postponements.
“Things are changing quickly during this time and we are doing our best to keep everyone informed. Remember, the local school is not making the big decisions, they are coming from state and local government, and we respond accordingly. For example, the governor has extended school closure until April 27, so we are working virtually until then, but this could be extended. We just adjust as things change,” Iannarone concluded.
Rescheduled AP Tests to be Taken Online and at Home
Recently, a drastic and rushed change was announced that sent many Advanced Placement (AP) students around the country into a panic. In late March, it was revealed that the 2019-2020 AP exams would be taken on computers from the students’ homes instead of being taken as a written test at schools.
This drastic change was made in response to the school closures resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak across the US. Due to the fact that most schools around the country have completely closed down, The College Board, who administers the AP tests as well as the SAT, was faced with the difficult decision of how to carry out the testing process.
The College Board surveyed 18,000 AP students, and a large majority indicated they still wanted to take their tests and urged the corporation not to cancel the tests completely. After this, they decided to go with at-home testing. Students taking select tests will be given 45 minutes to complete constructed free-response questions while being monitored by test proctors to prevent cheating.
“Honestly, I do not feel comfortable with the idea of being tested online. Something could always go wrong, and a whole year of learning could be lost,” shared Junior Dallana Nolazco.
Despite the online programs in place to prevent cheating, many AP students fear that some students will pay other people to take their test for them.
It was recently announced that the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which are another way for students to take college-leveled classes as high schoolers (that is not currently offered at Central High at), were cancelled. All IB students would be able to receive their certificate of completion without taking any exams.
Many students would rather receive refunds than take the new online test. They feel they have paid $94 dollars for a test that they will not receive. The original AP tests have a multiple choice portion, but now that section has been omitted. Since some students gain most of their points from the multiple choice section, they were disappointed that they ended up paying for a test in an unexpected format.
“I do not feel prepared for the AP test. For the first semester of of the year, we taught ourselves, and, now, we are teaching ourselves again,” stated Junior Zoey Greene, who is an AP chemistry student. “Our class had unfortunate circumstances that we could not control.”
The quick and rushed changes have students fearing that they are not prepared and would rather get their money back, but specific refund information for the circumstance has not yet been released.
“If I could, I would definitely get a refund. I know I won’t pass because we are not ready. Everything has been thrown against us, and I feel like that should be taken into consideration,” explained Greene.
Although most AP students, as well as teachers, are still in the dark about the entire situation, they are continuing to study and remain as prepared as possible for the upcoming tests, along with following along with the updates released by The College Board on their website. There are several free resources being provided by The College Board to assist students in the transition to online testing, such as YouTube videos.
Students understand the magnitude of The College Board’s examination dilemma, therefore they do not know if The College Board could have handled it in a much better way.
“I feel that the College Board is already [using] the best option to carry out the tests,” Nolazco said.
More information about changing AP testing schedules as well as AP online courses can be found on The College Board’s website.