By Taralyn Wiley, Staff Writer—
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson held a virtual “State of the System” for 2021 on Feb. 4 during which he detailed the struggles the county’s school system faced over the past year.
Johnson discussed their goal of accelerating student achievements within the next five years, which they proposed in 2019, and the progress Hamilton County Schools has made since. In that time, Chattanooga has saw a 433% increase in award schools and moved from #130 to #2 in Tennessee. They also generated five new STEM designations, multiple technologies and computer classrooms. Hamilton County recognized the hard work and dedication of its teachers and has increased base pay to 12 dollars an hour, holding a 90% satisfaction rate.
Johnson addressed the changes faculty made during the pandemic, and even compared the situation to the Great Depression of the 1920s.
“It has challenged our nation; it has challenged our state.”
During the summer of 2020, the school board initiated the REACH summer learning program, in which teachers and volunteers worked to gain access to the internet for students, granting 11,843 students free internet provided by EPB created a call center for tutoring, helping the community and serving over 3.1 million student meals.
To prepare for reopening in fall 2020, schools teamed up with volunteers, faculty and medical professionals to create a new, safer schedule for in-person attendance. Students only attended school physically 84 times over the course of the semester, while the rest of the learning was done in online classrooms. To compensate for the increase in internet-based instruction, a virtual learning center was created to help students and parents navigate the mostly uncharted territory.
Johnson said that the board is currently discussing plans to improve to deteriorating buildings along with implementing better educational materials, all with the goal of providing students the means of achieving their highest potential in the coming year.