JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The Campbell County Board of Education heard mostly good news concerning the opening of schools over the past few days, but the subject of whether or not to require the wearing of face masks by all teachers and staff ended with a “no decision,” leaving the question to the discretion of the Director of Schools.  Watch the meeting on demand HERE.

Director Jennifer Fields reported that the opening of county schools has so far gone “seamlessly” with no problems as classes returned to school on a staggered basis. She reported that temperature checks, mask wearing and other safety measures have been effective, while over 900 students have chosen the option of virtual learning from home.

“Those who have elected to attend virtually must continue on that path for the remainder of the semester before having the option to change and attend in person,” Fields added.

One action item on the agenda was whether the board should approve a policy to require masks to be worn at all times by teachers, staff and middle and high school students. Chairman Brent Lester could not attend the meeting, leaving Noah Smith to chair what was his final meeting on the board. Smith pointed out that he had visited several schools and observed a number of staff not wearing masks.

“We were elected to serve the students. I want my last meeting to go out doing that. At CCHS, I observed many congregating without masks, including teachers,” Smith noted. Ronnie Lasley and Jeffrey Miller both also spoke in favor of stronger action on masks, while one outspoken man standing in the back of the courtroom argued against a mandate. The unidentified man was among only a handful of people in the room not wearing masks as he loudly proclaimed the  argument “It’s my choice whether to cover my face.”

One board member pointed out that the board and director had removed their masks upon taking their seats in order to be heard more clearly, but another added that the board was facing out from each other and at a good distance from people in the audience.

Smith finally asked if anyone wished to offer a motion to require masks to be worn at all times, but nobody moved. He then asked if anyone had a motion to table the subject, again receiving no response. Smith finally asked for a motion to remove the subject from the agenda and the board punted the decision, more or less, to  Fields.

While Smith was attending his final meeting, having not sought re-election, Josh James announced at the end of the meeting that “I am formally resigning as a second district board member.”  James, who is half way through his first term representing the second district, moved to district 4 and ran unopposed in the Aug. 6 election and will now begin a four-year stint serving that district once he is sworn in.  James is taking over the seat Smith did not seek with a re-election run.

Mark Goins, Tennessee coordinator of elections and Campbell County native, told WLAF News earlier this summer that following the August election voters in the second district will only be represented by one member until the county commission takes action.  Brent Lester, current chair of the board and who was also unopposed in his race, will be the sole representative for the second district pending an appointment of someone to fill the seat.

“An empty seat can be placed on the ballot 60 days before an election,” Goins said.  In this case, because James kept his seat until Tuesday night, it will be up to the county commission to appoint someone to fill the seat following the August election.

When the second district seat is placed on the November ballot, it will be for an unexpired two year term, according to election commission officials.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 08/12/2020-6AM)