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Letter from John English, Director of Unicoi County Schools

Dear Unicoi County Families,

I hope that each of you are safe and well in our new “socially-distant” reality. Since we made the decision to close school for 4 weeks due to the Corona Virus, I have found myself thinking about the many different groups that have been affected.  That Monday rocked so many people in so many different ways.  The decision to close school is never easy, but to close for such an extended period was extremely difficult. I know that many of our students rely heavily on the day-to-day services that we provide.  We realize that extended time out of school puts added stress on our families. I want everyone to know we remain committed to serving our students and community the best way we can in spite of the limitations we face right now.

Students- Please know that every decision we make comes back to your safety and well-being.  Please stay active during this time.  Read books and find ways to challenge yourself in some way academically each day.  Work on the packets and work sent home and try to keep your minds sharp during this time.  Know that we will continue to provide meaningful learning resources to you and your family during this time via our website, your principals, and your teachers.  Do not stress the struggles you may have with your work right now and know you have teachers and staff that cannot wait to get you back in front of them to help you with your learning.  You are the reason we chose education as a profession.  We miss you already.

I hate the thought of our students at home instead of in classrooms learning each day and our athletes not getting the opportunity to compete after working to prepare for their respective seasons. Our drama students have worked so hard to prepare for an amazing spring full of great shows and productions.  We have so many students connected to so many extracurricular activities that have just come to a halt. I hate that we had so many eighth graders looking forward to the Washington DC trip.  We are sorry these things are not taking place right now.

I feel for our seniors who are wondering about graduation, college signing day, senior walk, prom and the possibility of not getting to finish out their senior year with all those things and many more annual traditions that seniors look forward too. I realize you have so many questions about the immediate future.  We do not have those answers right now.  Rest assured that whatever your future plans for post-secondary, we will see you through all the unknowns and make sure that you have all of the tools to make those goals become a reality.  The Ayers Foundation staff and our administration and staff continue to work daily to stay on top of this situation and we will keep you posted as we learn more and receive new information.  Know that you will not face the next steps on your own. That is a promise. We want nothing more than to see you in our hallways, classrooms, on our auditorium stage, on our playing fields competing and all the many other ways you shine again very soon. We will not give up on seeing that happen.

Administration and staff- I have always felt extremely blessed to have each of you working for Unicoi Schools.  Our current situation has only enhanced that feeling.  The response from teachers when the announcement was made to close was very inspiring to me. What can we do? How can we help?  What about our students?  Those were the messages I received from people all across our system.  The total team effort to make sure our students were fed is incredible.  Our Food Service staff has worked so hard along with bus drivers, administrators, teachers and support staff in making sure any child ages 1-18 has access to meals each day. Over 5100 bags were delivered the first 2 days. 

Our teachers and staff members were sad last Monday when the closure was announced.  We had informed them the Board of Education would make sure none of them lost any wages during this time, so it was not about themselves. It was about our students.  Our jobs are serving students, so it is extremely hard when that just ends abruptly without knowing when we can get back to that.  We will continue to work to find ways to reach our students throughout our closure. We will find effective ways to help students continue to learn while we navigate this situation.   We have a very special group of educators who care deeply for our students.  I am so thankful for each one, and appreciate so much their commitment and care for our students.

To our amazing community- I want to thank you for the outpouring of support we have received over the past few days.  We have received so many calls and texts with offers to assist with our food bag deliveries and any other ways needed.  We appreciate all of you more than we can express.  We simply could not provide the services we do without the ongoing support you provide to our students and staff.  Thank you for being such a huge part of our efforts and for being amazing partners.

Please know the Board of Education and Unicoi County Schools will continue to assist our students, families and community in any way we can during this challenging time of uncertainty. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you. .  Feel free to reach out if you have questions or need anything during this time.  My email is or you can call our central office at 743-1600.  We are here to help if possible.

We are all in this together and we will come through it together. Take care and God Bless.


John English


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