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Gray lawmaker’s bill to push interest in vocational education

A Washington County lawmaker is sponsoring legislation he hopes will keep students in school by pursuing career and technical education.

“We want to get students interested in their education,” state Rep. Tim Hicks, R-Gray, said Wednesday.

Hicks is pushing passage of a bill that he says is “a first step” in strengthening interest in career and technical education and vocational programs in Tennessee. He said the idea is to provide students who might not be looking forward to entering high school with a reason to continue with their education.

The legislator said not every student may be interested in attending college. Hicks said student aptitude tests given in the seventh grade — as mandated by the state General Assembly last year — may determine a student’s skills are better suited to a technical or vocational path.

Hicks said HB1446, which cleared the instructional subcommittee of the House Education Committee earlier this week, stipulates that schools “shall prepare” students in middle school grades for a career and technical education, or CTE, pathway by introducing them to career exploration opportunities that allow students to explore a wide variety of high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand career fields.

Current law requires local school systems to administer a career aptitude assessment to students in grade seven or grade eight “in order to help inform” a student of his or her high school plan of study. Hicks’ bill adds that upon administering the assessment tests, local schools must provide the student with information about CTE opportunities offered by the system “in which the student is eligible” to participate.

“Research shows that if we can get a kid interested in CTE and or vocational programs, it will spark their motivation,” Hicks said. “Chances are they will want to further their education. Some will continue on to college.”

Hicks said his bill is in keeping with Gov. Bill Lee’s goal of improving vocational and CTE programs in Tennessee’s schools.

“Our high schools have great programs, but we are going to have to step up the pace,” Hicks said.

Washington County adds 53 new COVID-19 cases, most since Jan. 29

Washington County reported 53 new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections on Wednesday, the most reported in the county since it added 67 on Jan. 29 — a span of 61 days.

Wednesday was also the first time Washington County reported more than 50 new cases since January. Compared to February, Washington County’s average new case count rose by more than 30% in March (23.2), though it was still well below January’s average of 71.1. Over the past 14 days though, the county has reported an average of 31 new cases per day, a more than 75% increase from February.

Across the region, however, the average number of new cases reported in March fell by 17% from 109 new cases per day to 90. Over the past two weeks that average has grown to 104.4 new cases per day, about 4% lower than February’s rate.

Washington County also reported the most new deaths (3) in the region over the past week, and is second behind Sullivan County for new hospitalizations (7) and cases (234) over the same time.

Washington County also saw a jump in active cases, which rose by 35 from Tuesday — its largest single-day increase since Jan. 9.

Made with Flourish

Boone Lake cleanup day set

Boone Lake, or what some might have called the lack of Boone Lake for the past several years, will get spruced up for summer later this month with an annual cleanup day as water enthusiasts prepare for the lake to return.

The lake didn’t actually go anywhere: It’s been in a drawdown since the Tennessee Valley Authority discovered a sinkhole in October 2014 near the base of the Boone Dam embankment and found water and sediment seeping from the riverbank below.

The agency ultimately launched a multi-year repair effort that required it to lower the lake’s water surface to 1,350 to 1,355 feet above sea level.

The low lake level has frustrated many in the region, especially home owners whose land abuts the lake.

“This year’s cleanup will be important as we prepare for the lake to return to full pool this summer,” according to a Boone Lake Association press release.

What, where, when

BLA will hold its 22nd annual Boone Lake Cleanup on April 24 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. with six trash collection sites. Trash from the cleanup can be dropped off at Boone Lake Marina, Davis Marina, TVA’s new Boone Beach boat ramp, Bluff City boat ramp, Pickens Bridge boat ramp near Jay’s Dock and the Route 11E boat ramp near Winged Deer Park.

Food and giveaway

Participants will get a ticket for each bag of trash collected, and wrist band for access to an after-cleanup picnic at Winged Deer Park at 4 p.m. The picnic will include music by “Boone Lake Trash” starting at 3 p.m., and food served in individual containers provided by one of the event’s sponsors, Food City.

The cash prize drawing will be at 5 p.m. and entrants must be present to win.

Bring a chair to socially distance at the picnic.

Get help

There’s no guarantee, but homeowners unable to help with the event can ask for volunteers to help clear trash or stack branches/logs on your lakefront shorelines in advance of the rising waters. Homeowners can make the request at one of the six collection sites.

Volunteers could choose their location instead of foraging on public/TVA shorelines. Send an email to boonelakeassociation@gmail.com with your name, address, phone number, description of the work requested and the closest trash collection site.

Volunteers and locations needed

The association also needs locations to send cleanup participants to collect trash. Lakefront owners in an area where trash could be collected and willing to give the Boone Lake Association permission to access the waterfront from the property, send an email to boonelakeassociation@gmail.com describing your location, address, phone number and where the trash is located.