Students and staff returning to campus at Williamson County Schools will not be required to wear masks at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

In an email sent to WCS families July 21, WCS officials said students and staff will not require, but will encourage, masks if individuals prefer to wear one. Students under age 12 are still advised to wear masks due to their ineligibility to get a vaccine.

Some protocols, such as disinfecting high-touch surfaces and asking students to stay home when they are sick, will continue.

Quarantine policies will still be in place in accordance with local health department guidelines. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to return when a healthcare provider has provided a note stating it is safe for the individual to return. Quarantines will not be necessary for individuals who have been fully vaccinated if they come in contact with a positive case.

While case numbers have seen a significant decline since the start of the year, there has been a increase in recent weeks as delta variant case numbers rise nationwide. From July 1-20, cases in Williamson County has risen by more than 300%, climbing from 60 to 292 cases, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Due to these recent rises in case numbers, WCS officials said they will continue to monitor cases in the community and will adjust protocols if necessary.

See more on health guidelines from WCS here.