"We've decided that the wisest course for our students, faculty and staff is to apply our 'medium' protocol schooling plan starting on our first day," Golden said.
Early childhood programs through second grade will be allowed on campus, though parents will still have the option of enrolling their students in the remote learning program. Students in grades 3-12 will learn remotely.
"This allows for our youngest learners to be on campus with improved social distancing—something that cannot be achieved if all grades are on campus," Golden said. "This plan also promotes early literacy for our youngest children, which is a critical process for those young children as they learn how to read."
Additionally, students with special needs may receive on-campus instruction based on their individualized needs, according to Golden.
The first day of school for students is Aug. 7 for both on-campus and remote learning, the latter of which will be done using WCS Online, which has been expanded to all grades, according to the superintendent. The deadline for choosing the online program has been extended to July 26 at 5 p.m.
"Tennessee's Commissioner of Health has very clearly stated that when schools open, there will be positive cases. We've experienced that here in Williamson County Schools," Golden said. "Right now, we have about 20 of our summer staff are out based on quarantine or health issues, including some of our administrators who have been diagnosed or quarantined. We're concerned that with our current numbers, returning all students to campus on Aug. 7, where we know we can't be socially distanced, will place a burden on our students, on our staff and on the health department and others that currently can't be borne based on our numbers."
Golden said Aug. 7 will be a half day for all students, including those who learn remotely, in order to familiarize students with their teachers and programs. All students will also have access to a Chromebook, and will hear from their schools' principals no later than July 31 about pick-up options.
As of July 23, more than 1,400 residents—just over 0.6% of Williamson County's population—had an active case of coronavirus, putting the district in the the "medium spread" category of the district's reopening framework.
Golden said he encouraged everyone to work together to combat the spread of the virus in order to lower the number of active cases in the county and allow students to return to campus as soon as possible.
"I know this year will be a big challenge. We're in a pandemic, but I know that we all ultimately have the same goals for our students and staff—for our students to safely receive the excellent WCS education that we're all here for I know that as our faculty and staff work these next few days and the first few days of school on their remote learning, this new program will be a challenge for them," Golden said. "However, I'm optimistic about this school year because of the work our county and community are doing. I'm also optimistic that if we can continue to work together, we will see these trends over the next few weeks change that will allow our faculty and staff and students to be on campus sooner rather than later."
This story is developing. Check back for updates.