Dr. John Combs delivers an update to the Tipton County School Board on Thursday, Sept. 10.

At last Thursday’s school board meeting, director of schools Dr. John Combs wanted to remind the public his plans for this school year are fluid.

“I’ve said that throughout. Over the course of this week and next, I will continue to monitor positive case counts, distance learning efficiency for students and the logistics for all our teachers to be able to effectively instruct all students.”

And, if he determines a schedule adjustment is necessary, he will make an adjustment.


In his visits to schools, he said he can see teachers are stretched to the breaking point.

“They have continued on because they love these kids, but I want them to know I am listening … I want to thank everyone for their patience  as we navigate these times. I know this has been difficult for all, but continue to know also that the current plan could adjust as I deem necessary for the efficiency of instruction to both face-to-face and distance learners.”

Board member Steve Clark, a former teacher, said he know teachers are spending an extra three or four hours per day working.

“And I think I’m being conservative with that,” Clark added.

Combs said the teachers’ biggest concerns right now are the workload.

“Everybody, I think, wants to push back and say, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is …’ but this is completely different. This workload is so much different than anyone’s ever experienced. It’s just a lot of stuff. And not only is it a lot, it’s like five or six different things. You have your face-to-face folks here, then you have your packets ready for those who are on the staggered (schedule) and you also have the distance learners who are truly distanced learners and then you have the packet for those who weren’t in school that day … it’s just constant. And then, at the same time, you have the regular stuff that’s new, like getting acquainted with all the new rules and regulations that our COVID contact has put in place and you’re trying to keep up with phone calls and emails all the time while they’re teaching. It’s just a lot to get used to.”

The teachers, he said, are making him proud.

“They’ve been so resilient because it has been tough … and this is all brand new. We’re building the plane as we fly it.”

To help with the workload,  the district may change the schedule, will soon request students commit to a learning model, issue devices to students and set up WiFi hot spots around the county.

Four day weeks could be an option

Combs said if it proves more efficient, the schedule for face-to-face learners could be changed.

Instead of attending classes in person all five days, Fridays may become distance days only. this will help teachers catch up with their distance learners, among other things.

Another options is designating virtual-only teachers.

The number of distance learners is decreasing

Tipton County is one of only a few districts in the state not continuing some form of hybrid attendance model.

Face-to-face students attended classes in person two days per week, and online the other three, for the first three weeks of the school year.

Last Tuesday the face-to-face students began full-time in-person instruction.

Combs said 35 percent of the district’s 10,400 students were attending school through the distance learning model when the school year started a month ago and that has already decreased to 29 percent.

“I think people are getting more comfortable and they’re seeing, number one, the distance learning piece is not a joke, it’s real, there’s a lot to it and a lot you have to do on both sides of the fence … but they’re also seeing the importance of being in that classroom as well.”

At some point, he said, students will need to choose between one model.

“We can’t keep jumping back and forth,” said Combs. “I’ll give plenty of notice before that happens, though.”

Devices and hot spots on the way

Devices for each of Tipton County’s students and teachers are on the way.

The first round is expected to arrive in October and high school students will get first priority.  The second round should arrive in December, Combs said.

“The plan is to begin the second semester with every student and every teacher having a device.

Once devices are distributed, physical packets will be greatly reduced.

He plans to set up six mobile hot spots – two each in Covington, Brighton and Munford/Drummonds – using inoperable school buses.

The WiFi will have a 300-foot range.

These solutions won’t solve every problem, but they’ll help.

Though there have been confirmed cases in students and staff, and requisite quarantines, no clusters have been reported.

“Our grounding point is we’re going to do what’s best for our kids.”

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.


  1. I know these times are hard on everyone. Working as a nurse for 36 yrs and long hours and problems never ending , I can feel the teachers pain. On the other hand, being a grandmother with a 11 y/o in the Tipton county school system I feel the parents pain too.
    We get information spit out to us one thing at a time. We have many unanswered questions. This app that app these programs those programs distant learning face to face and schedues are being changed frequently. Parents are frustrated too. We dont have any guidelines . No consistency. Some get home at 6 pm to only have children that have been to school that day, that have so much homework it takes to 10pm to 1030pm to complete. We need a guide to go by. All information explained to us. The apps and internet information at our finger tips.
    Examples :
    What is expected of f to face students on Fridays ? Do they get online to learn or just have homework.
    What are all these sites clever google learning etc.
    How do we access these site…step by step.
    What passwords do we use our child’s name and lunch number or our own ?
    Tutoring is offered but what is it for and how do u access tutoring. I was told 3 different things by 3 different teachers. Is it going to be exactly what they are learning or just for questions students may have ?

    What is expected from online learners step by step.
    What are the differ ways information is accessed what about how we access apps, usernames passwords etc.

    What do we do if we are f to f and want to go distance. What do we do if we r distant and want to go f to f.

    What if we all have to go to distant learning bc covid 19 increases. Should we not have that information and be familiar with it in case of emergencies.
    What if covid breaks out in one school what’s the plan.

    I feel that the biggest problem is the lack of everyone being on the same page. Does it not make sense to have a group of teachers that are knowledgeable enough to be able to compose an outline with all the information that parents, teachers and anybody coming into our schools to pick up a packet designed to educate them exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it. I know it’s been hard but it dont have to be IF EVERYONE HAS THE SAME INFORMATION AND Its NOT LEFT UP TO OUR TEACHERS OR PARENTS TO PLAY IT BY EAR. Wrong information is being given to us by some teachers that just dont understand the new way themselves. Or Parents so overwhelmed with 3 or 4 kids at 2 or 3 different schools. That are losted!

    We are all in this together ! If we all have the same information and guidelines we could all get organized . Most ppl dont want controversy or even worse than that …not to be able to help their children succeed.

    Zoom meetings to talk to parents so frustration levels dont get so high and ppl dont start talking about things they are confused about and blame the teachers.

    This all can be easier on all of us if the ppl that make the rules sit down write down a guildlines for teachers and parents. If we all work together we can do this the same way everyday regardless of the covid 19 crisis.

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