A1 A1
County School Board Hears Teacher Concerns Over Workload, Virus

Many teachers in the Greene County School System are working hard and feeling defeated by an increased and expanded workload, Greene County Education Association (GCEA) President Rhonda Lankford told the Greene County School Board Thursday evening.

Lankford, a special education teacher at Chuckey Doak High School, was accompanied by Chuckey Doak High School Spanish teacher Hillary Buckner, also with GCEA.

Lankford began her presentation to the board with a letter, written by another teacher, Lankford said would provide insight into teachers’ experience with teaching this year.

The teacher, identified only as a level 5 teacher in the district, wrote that teachers are struggling to balance additional duties to act as a nurse and a custodian with teaching in-person and virtually, Lankford said.

“I am at a loss because I don’t have the capacity to be the teacher I need to be, simply because it’s impossible,” Lankford said the teacher wrote.

Buckner told the board that teachers’ work days start early and do not end until late at night because there is not enough time to plan and provide equal attention and support to online students as well as those coming to school in person.

“I personally have a whole class worth of students that are at home that I have to give the exact amount of attention to that I give to those in front of me,” Buckner said.

While the switch to full-time in-person instruction beginning Monday will eliminate the need for many teachers to continue juggling both in-person and virtual instruction, Buckner also expressed concerns related to the switch, saying that students have not yet acclimated to the AA/BB hybrid schedule the district has been operating on since Sept. 10.

“What I’m seeing in my own classroom is a reduced academic performance when we switch,” Buckner said.

Chuckey Doak, West Greene and South Greene high schools will remain on the AA/BB schedule as central office and staff from those schools determined that it would not be possible to observe social distancing at the minimum three feet set by the CDC in its guidance for institutions operating under critical infrastructure designation. The district’s elementary and middle schools are set to begin in-person instruction full time on Monday, while North Greene High School students will go all week except on Wednesday.

Buckner and Lankford also discussed concerns related to COVID-19 safety within schools, citing five confirmed and an unknown number of suspected cases within Chuckey Doak High School.

Assistant Director of Academics and Human Resources Bill Ripley confirmed there is a case cluster in one part of the school and said the faculty and staff affected are doing well.

Director of Schools David McLain said as of Thursday evening a total of seven staff members and three students, including the cluster at Chuckey Doak High School, have tested positive.

Buckner said she has spoken with students who have told her they do not feel safe returning to in-person instruction on a full-time basis.

“I’ve had other teachers and students tell me they do feel safe,” Board Chairman Rick Tipton said. “We’ve got both sides coming to us. It’s hard for us, too. We just don’t take things lightly.”

The letter shared by Lankford also included other concerns and challenges such as difficulties reaching students in an online format, being disrespected by students online, students submitting work and asking questions late at night or early in the morning and anxiety related to state assessments that reflect on the school and district.

The board voted unanimously to support legislation to pause Tennessee state standardized testing, including end-of-year and end-of-course exams, or use the results of those tests, if they occur, exclusively to measure student progress.

The board also voted to allow booster athletics with protocols in place and to support legislation to keep Tennessee school systems’ state Basic Education Program funding for the 2021-22 school year at least equal to the amounts received for the 2020-21 school year.

For more information on action taken at Thursday’s meeting of the Greene County Board of Education, see Saturday’s edition.

USS Greeneville Crew Receives Masks From Greeneville Inc.

The crew of USS Greeneville recently received masks as a gift from USS Greeneville Inc. and Greene County.

“The masks are certainly appreciated in the new era where they have become a necessary accessory to help protect us all,” Stephanie Render, the wife of Chief of the Boat Jonathan Render, said in an emailed statement.

The sailors aboard USS Greeneville recently completed a successful deployment. Upon their return they received the masks to help support their transition into shore life.

“The masks are representative of the great pride we all share for 772,” Render said in the emailed statement. “The traditional battle logo is a wonderful centerpiece above the shared sentiment ‘Pride Runs Deep.’”

Sailors were issued uniform masks but thanks to the donation from Greeneville and Greene county, they will have a great alternative to get them around town in Hawaii. The crew and families of USS Greenville continue to be thankful for their special relationship with the people of Greenville and Greene County.

Commanding Officer Robert Lane expressed his gratitude.

“I wanted to thank Greeneville and Greene County for the awesome GREENEVILLE face masks. Though we are not authorized to wear them while in uniform, the crew is happy to have another mask to show our pride for USS Greeneville,” he said in the written statement.

“USS Greeneville sends a big mahalo nui loa, thank you very much, to Greeneville Inc., Greeneville, and Greene County for their continued support of our mighty warship,” Render wrote.

Greeneville and Greene County have maintained a strong relationship with the submarine and crew both before and after its commissioning in 1996.

In 1989, the community convinced the U.S. Navy to name a fast-attack nuclear sub after Greeneville, following petition campaigns that collected more than 20,000 names, a major letter-writing campaign and even a visit by 12 community leaders to Washington, D.C.

Over the years, sailors from the USS Greeneville have visited the town to talk with school groups, participate in community projects, lead the Greeneville parades and host a reunion for past and current crew members and their families.

USS Greeneville Inc., a nonprofit organization, serves as the link between the community and the submarine. The organization will soon begin preparing for the 25th anniversary of the USS Greeneville’s commissioning, to be celebrated in summer of 2021.

Four Additional COVID-19 Deaths Recorded Locally

Four more deaths from the coronavirus and 11 new cases were reported Thursday for Greene County, while the number of active cases declined.

The county now has had 43 residents die from COVID-19, according to Thursday’s daily update from the Tennessee Department of Health. That count is up four from what was reported on Wednesday, when two new deaths were recorded.

In September, 27 people have died from the virus in the county. The four new local deaths were among the 35 reported statewide on Thursday. In Tennessee, 2,310 people have died from the virus.

Eleven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Greene County in Thursday’s report from the state, bringing the total of people locally who have had the virus to 1,129.

The active cases in the county on Thursday totaled 87, down seven from Wednesday, according to the state report.

Fourteen more people were added to the inactive/recovered category on Thursday. That number locally now totals 999 and is defined by the state as people who are either 14 days beyond the onset of symptoms or their testing date if asymptomatic.

Greene County has the fifth highest number of active cases in the Northeast Tennessee region. Washington County has the most with 232 active cases, Sullivan County has 163, Hamblen totals 114 and Johnson County has one more than Greene with 88.

Three other counties in the region had double digit increases in new cases on Thursday. Sullivan had 28, Johnson had 13, and Hamblen had 12, according to the state report.

Greene County has has averaged 12.1 new cases for the 14-day period of Sept. 10-23, slightly less than the 13.6 average in the preceding 14-day period stretching back to August, state Health Department data indicates.

One new local hospitalization was reported for Greene County in Thursday’s state report. A total of 78 people have required hospital care due to the virus since the pandemic began.

Currently, 72 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in Ballad Health facilities in the region, according to Thursday’s daily COVID-19 scorecard from the health system. Six individuals are hospitalized with symptoms, but still awaiting test results. Twelve of those hospitalized are in intensive care units with seven of those on a ventilator.

The rate of individuals testing positive among all those tested for the past seven days has gone up for the region. The positive rate for the past seven days in the region is 7.4%, up about half of a percentage point from Wednesday, according to the Ballad Health scorecard. Greene County’s positive rate for the past seven days was 9.8%, and an average of 146.7 tests were administered locally, according to state data

For the entire state, there were 835 new cases reported on Thursday, bringing the total recorded in Tennessee to 187,544 during the pandemic.

Most people who contract COVID-19 will become only mildly or moderately ill, according to health experts. However, for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it can cause serious illness and can be fatal.

Tests are being administered at the Greene County Health Department from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday. No appointment is necessary, and those seeking to be tested are asked to use the Church Street entrance to the Health Department.

Free self-swab tests are now available at the CVS Pharmacy location on the Asheville Highway for those who meet Centers for Disease Control qualifications. An appointment is required and can be made at CVS.com.

Ballad Health asks anyone concerned they may have the virus to call the system’s Nurse Connect line at 833-822-5523 to be scheduled for testing at the individual’s nearest testing site. The line is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Testing is taking place at Greeneville Community Hospital East.

Those who need to speak to someone about mental and emotional challenges the coronavirus may be causing, can call Frontier Health’s 24-hour crisis line at 877-928-9062, Tennessee’s 24-hour crisis line at 855-274-7471, or the federal mental health services help line at 1-800-985-5990.

Voter Registration Deadline Nearing For November Election

Individuals who want to register to vote in the November election have about 10 more days to do so.

The deadline for voter registration for the Nov. 3 federal, state and City of Tusculum municipal election is Oct. 5. People may register to vote online, by mail or in person at the Greene County Election Commission at 311 CCU Blvd., Suite #1.

Individuals who mail their voter registration application must have it postmarked on or before Oct. 5, according to the deadlines set by the Tennessee Secretary of State.

To be eligible to vote, an individual must be a citizen of the United States, a resident of Tennessee and be 18 years of age or older on or before the date of the next election.

The eligibility of a person who has been convicted of a felony depends on the crime and date of conviction, according to state law. If the conviction made an individual ineligible, that person may regain eligibility if the conviction has been expunged or if voting rights were restored, unless the conviction was for a crime that makes the person permanently ineligible to vote.

An application available at the GoVoteTN.gov website can be printed and the completed form sent by mail. Voter registration applications can also be picked up at the Election Commission Office as well as the Greene County Clerk’s Office, the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library and the Register of Deeds office.

People can also register to vote during a transaction with the Tennessee Department of Health (WIC program), Department of Human Services, Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Department of Mental Health, Department of Safety (motor vehicles division), and Department of Veterans Affairs.

First-time voters will also have the option to vote by absentee in the November election. According to a federal court order earlier this month, first-time voters are not required to vote in-person if they meet a legal reason to vote by mail through an absentee ballot as previously required by the state. A first-time voter may still need to provide identification when the absentee ballot is sent back.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the November election is Oct. 27. To be counted, absentee ballots must be mailed to the Election Commission so that it is received not later than the close of polls on Nov. 3. Absentee ballots can also be returned using Federal Express, UPS or a similar shipping service. The ballots cannot be hand delivered.

Requests locally for absentee ballots are up for the November election compared to previous years, according to information shared with Greene County Election Commission members earlier this month. Presidential elections have traditionally garnered the highest number of absentee ballot requests as well as the highest voter turnouts in the county.

To vote absentee in Tennessee, an individual has to be in one of the eligible categories such as someone 60 years of age or older, an individual who will be outside the county during the early voting period or on the election day, an individual serving in the military or attending college outside the county where registered, a truck driver working outside the state or county during early voting and election day or residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Persons who are hospitalized, ill or physically disabled who are unable to appear at the polling place, and their caretakers, are also able to vote absentee. These two categories also include persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it.

A written request must be submitted to the Election Commission for an absentee ballot, and a form is available on GoVoteTN.gov.

The written request can be sent by mail, fax or email. If a person emails a request, the attached documents need to contain the following information and a scanned signature:

  • name of the registered voter
  • address of the voter’s residence
  • voter’s social security number
  • voter’s date of birth
  • address to mail the ballot
  • the election in which the voter wishes to participate.
  • reason the voter wishes to vote absentee, and
  • voter’s signature.

If not all the required information is provided, the Election Commission will return the application so it can be corrected and resubmitted. If a ballot is not received or the ballot is damaged in some way that it cannot be used, the Election Commission should be notified.

Early voting for the November election will be conducted Oct. 14-29 at the Election Commission office. Hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. In an effort to provide an opportunity for voters to come after work, the Election Commission has set hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the upcoming early voting period at 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On the ballot in November will be the U.S. presidential and candidates as well as U.S. Senate and House of Representatives candidates. State offices to be on the ballot in Greene County include the 5th and 11th House of Representative districts.

Candidates are running for two commissioner seats in the Tusculum municipal election.