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A tour of the renovations at Martin Elementary School was given last Thursday. Renovations include new doors, windows, bathroom upgrades, changes to the theatre area and flooring in certain hallways. Work is ongoing, with the only holdups to progress being a delay in getting supplies due to COVID-19.

There are about 6,800 students enrolled in Cumberland County schools this year.

That’s up from the first of the school year, Director of Schools Ina Maxwell said, though the schools are still down from the March 13 enrollment of 7,122.

“Schools are the heart of the county,” Maxwell said. “Everyone has been supportive of our schools, and it’s good to have some routines back for people.”

There were 6,564 students on Aug. 20, according to an email from Maxwell to the Chronicle. At that time, there were 1,183 virtual students.

As of last week, there were 649 students enrolled in virtual learning.

“We’ve seen students come back to the classroom,” Maxwell said. “Families are choosing what works best for their family.”

Virtual learning includes 424 elementary students and 225 high school students. 

Cumberland County virtual students are still part of their home school student body, and they interact regularly with their teachers through video conferencing or real-time instruction.

“There is some level of participation expected,” Maxwell said. 

The schools and technology department has tried to help families work through any technical difficulties. The teachers, Maxwell said, have been going above and beyond to accommodate their students during this time.

“It is extremely difficult for our teachers,” she said. “That’s what teachers do — they always give 110% and more.”

The extra days moved to the first of the school year for teacher training and in-service helped, Maxwell said. Training for online learning is ongoing, Maxwell said. Technology and instructional coaches are offering quick lessons on specific tools via videoconference, with in-person, one-on-one coaching also available by request. 

Many teachers in the school system did have some experience with instructional technology before the pandemic, however. Four years ago, the school system launched a one-to-one technology initiative and issued Chromebooks to all students in the fifth and ninth grades. Teachers for each grade level since have had training on using the Chromebooks in their classrooms.

That initiative also helped provide more technology resources as the school year began. As schools across the country — elementary, high school and colleges — switched to online learning platforms, technology companies have struggled to meet the increased demand for laptops. 

“The one-to-one initiative was good foresight,” Maxwell said. “We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at. And the broadband initiatives in the county will be a great help.”

On Sept. 8, the school system celebrated its 20th day of the 2020-’21 school year, with Maxwell allowing all employees to wear denim.

“We started July 1 not knowing if we’d be able to have school,” she said. “We’re grateful and we hope we can continue. It’s all about our kids and what we can do to support them.”

Maxwell did say the school system is in need of additional bus drivers and substitute teachers this school year. Individuals interested in these positions can apply online at ccschools.k12tn.net or call the Central Office. 

“We are grateful for what they do,” Maxwell said. “It takes a special person.”

As for bus drivers, she recognizes how important they can be in setting the tone for the school day ahead.

“I remember my bus driver, JC Blaylock, who would greet us by saying ‘Hey, how are you? Have a good day!”

 

 

Enrollment by School

 

Brown Elementary 531

Crab Orchard Elementary 428

Homestead Elementary 656

Martin Elementary 719

North Cumberland Elementary 585

Pine View Elementary 152

Pleasant Hill Elementary 568

South Cumberland Elementary 484

Stone Elementary 638

Cumberland County High School 999

Stone Memorial High School 987

Phoenix School 76

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.