Director of Schools John English (left) and School Board Chairman Tyler Engle

Students in Unicoi County will take at least their first two weeks of classes online after the school board decided to open with virtual learning to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.

On Thursday, county Board of Education members voted unanimously to move the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17, starting with a week of staggered in-person meetings between students and teachers before starting virtual instruction on Aug. 24.

During the orientation week, students may pick up their provided learning devices, iPads for students in kindergarten through second grade and Chromebooks for students in grades 3 through 12.

Teachers will broadcast their lessons to students from their classrooms.

According to a press release from the school district, Director of Schools John English will announce on Sept. 2 whether students will return for in-person learning on Sept. 8.