Five things to know about last days of school, summer plans for Hamilton County students

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / The library at East Brainerd Elementary is photographed Tuesday, December 3, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / The library at East Brainerd Elementary is photographed Tuesday, December 3, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Hamilton County Schools announced on April 15 that school buildings would not re-open this school year, the same day Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee urged schools across the state not to re-open.

Many districts have continued distance learning since schools first closed in March but graduation ceremonies, proms, final grades and even summer school were still up in the air.

The Hamilton County school board approved updated recommendations on Thursday, April 23.

Here's what you need to know as the school year comes to a close in Hamilton County.

1. Virtual learning is still happening.

Though students haven't been inside a school building since March 13, teachers across the district say learning is still happening. Virtual learning efforts like Google Hangouts or Zoom meetings are still happening, and schools continue to send packets home for younger children and students who might not have internet access. The last day of school has been bumped up though.

High school seniors will finish on May 4 and all other students will finish on May 15. Teachers will officially complete the school year between May 18 and May 22.

2. Students can still improve their grades.

The Tennessee State Board of Education determined that students will not be penalized for work not completed after schools were closed. In Hamilton County, students will not receive a grade lower than what their final grade was on March 13, although students will have the opportunity to improve their final course grades through remote learning assignments completed after March 13, according to district guidance.

Along with TNReady assessments, other end-of-year exams have also been canceled for high school students including International Baccalaureate classes and exams for dual credit classes. Challenge exams for statewide dual credit have been rescheduled for September, and Advanced Placement exams are still taking place through at-home versions.

3. Graduation dates are still tentative.

High school graduations are still tentatively scheduled for a group of dates in June or July, but district officials said they will continue to follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health department guidance. Some high schools might have the option to hold ceremonies outside in sports stadiums, but those plans haven't been finalized.

District principals were told in an email this week that they must reach out to Chief Operations Officer Justin Robertson by May 1 if their school is interested in that option.

Plans for proms are also still up in the air - proms could still be canceled or rescheduled.

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4. Some students are still expected to turn in their laptops.

Between May 4 and May 22, schools will set up appointment times for students in grades 5, 8 and 12 to return their Chromebooks to their zone schools since they will be going to a new school next year. Students will also be expected to clean out their lockers.

Some students might be allowed to keep their devices through the summer, according to district officials. Parents should look to their child's school for details and more information.

5. Next school year could start early for some, and summer school plans are still in the works.

The district hasn't set official plans for summer school or school-aged child care while school is out yet, but district officials including Superintendent Bryan Johnson and Chief Schools Officer Neelie Parker said they are considering how to make up time missed this spring.

The reality is that every day we aren't in front of our kids, there is learning lost," Parker told the school board during a meeting Thursday. "We'll have accumulated almost six months of lost time in front of our students by the time we start school again. We aren't leaving any options out."

The district is weighing options for about $10 million it will receive through federal CARES Act funding - whether that includes summer academies in June and July, virtual summer learning opportunities or early start dates for specific schools like Opportunity Zone or Title 1 schools.

"This situation is really fluid," Johnson said. "Parents will have to bear with us until we're ready to make a formal recommendation. Every day, we get new information. Every day, there is new guidance that comes into the fold."

A tentative plan to open 25 child care sites this summer with limited numbers of students is currently in place though, Robertson said.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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