WCS families were asked to register for either in-person or virtual learning for the 2021-22 school year by March 23, which prompted many parents to ask what the next school year will look like. While Williamson County lifted its mask mandate in late February, WCS and Franklin Special School District have opted to continue to require them.
Several parents spoke during the public comment portion of the WCS board of education meeting March 22, asking the district to make mask-wearing optional for staff and students for the 2021-22 school year.
“Based upon the declining cases and the availability of the vaccine, I think it is time that the school system exits this pandemic mentality,” WCS parent Rebekah Parker said.
Cases in Williamson County have been on the decline in recent weeks, down from more the 2,000 active cases at the start of the year to just under 500 as of March 22, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. However, active cases have increased by 7% in the last week.
Parents also called for the district to remove quarantine requirements and contract tracing for students, which is conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The district has not yet announced what COVID-19 protocols will look like during the 2021-22 school year; however, Superintendent Jason Golden said WCS has been less restrictive than many other districts in other parts of the country.
“I’m really proud of what our staff has done and pushing those efforts to do what we could to keep students on campus,” Golden said. “It hasn’t been perfect; there have been some times where we haven’t been able to be on campus, but the effort has been there, and I think it’s been worth it so far.”
He also clarified that registration is only for the fall semester of the 2021-22 school year, and that parents can change their choice after the first semester.
Additionally, Golden said the district is also working to implement new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reduces social distancing requirements from 6 feet to 3 feet. Golden said WCS’ COVID-19 response team is also working to lessen restrictions inside schools and around sports. The district also no longer requires temperature checks for students arriving for school.
However, Golden said the district will most likely be requiring mask usage through at least the end of the 2020-21 school year, per CDC guidance.
“I think it’s extremely important for us to re-emphasize as clearly as I can that we will continue to follow the CDC and state health department guidelines and listen to those health authorities as much as we can, and that includes this year plus next year,” Golden said. “I can’t predict the future—I can be optimistic—but what I can tell you is that my intent and my plan is to follow these health authorities’ guidelines as much as we can with a goal that we’ve had throughout the school year of keeping students on campus.”