Masks, quarantines and vaccines: What to know about 2021-22 safety guidelines for Williamson County Schools

Masks will be highly encouraged for students at the start of the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Masks will be highly encouraged for students at the start of the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Masks will be highly encouraged for students at the start of the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

As many students in Williamson County Schools prepare to return to school Aug. 6, many families are looking forward to how the 2021-22 school year will look compared to last year's during the 2020 COVID-19 surge.

One big change students will see is a relaxing of mask requirements on campus. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced new recommendations that included individuals in a K-12 school setting wear a mask, WCS will not require masks. However, they will be strongly recommended, especially for students younger than 12 years old who are ineligible to receive a vaccine.

In an online report Aug. 3, WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said the district is working to ensure students and staff who continue to wear masks will feel comfortable doing so.

"We are emphasizing and re-emphasizing to our staff that it is absolutely important to honor those who choose to wear a mask," Golden said. "I have an anticipation that many of our teachers in certain settings will wear a mask and sometimes they might not. But we do know that many parents have a concern, and I think all of us should continue to have a concern about this virus. We're making it a priority that we are going to support and honor those who choose to wear a mask. We are encouraging it and we're recommending it, especially in a school setting."

Golden said while the district will be only recommending masks, that could change during the school year as cases fluctuate. In recent weeks, active cases in Williamson County have risen by more than 2,000%, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. Golden said the district is considering community factors, such as vaccination rates and new cases.

"The reality is that may change," Golden said. "We don't know what the future holds with the pandemic and that's trite, but it's true. I want everyone to know that we're going to continue to monitor this, especially in the context of masks."

Golden said should the district move to require masks, the decision would require board approval before it can be enforced.

According to the district, students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will also be sent home, in accordance to WCS board policy, which applies to all communicable disease. Additionally, quarantines will still be in place for unvaccinated individuals as those decisions come from the county health department, not the school district.

"We will honor those quarantines," Golden said. "If the health department says you need to be quarantined, you can't come to school campus either, so that is still going on from the health department."

However, Golden said the district expects quarantines may be less of an issue this school year as many students and staff have been vaccinated. While Williamson County is still below the threshold of vaccinations needed to stop community spread, it has the highest rate of fully-vaccinated residents in the state at 51.09%, according to the TDOH.

While vaccines are encouraged by the TDOH, students and staff will not be required to have or show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The district has recommended the following mitigation strategies that will be in place over the next school year:

  • Students and staff should stay home if they are sick or have a fever.

  • Social distancing of at least 3 feet will be enforced when possible.

  • Students will be in cohort groups when social distancing is not possible.

  • High-touch surfaces will continue to be disinfected.

"I know there's a lot of fear out there and we've felt it too," Golden said. "I want everyone to know we have a lot of good professionals on this, this is a team effort. We are recommending masks and I know that there are some folks that wish we would require them. Our experience—based on last year, based on this summer, based on CDC guidelines, based on vaccination, based on what we know about the hospitalizations, about the number of adults versus the number of children with positive cases—that whole package that we've studied for so long leads us to conclude that the most appropriate place to start is to recommend to wear masks."

See more about WCS's illness guidelines here.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


The Williamson County Schools Board of Education met for a work session Sept. 16. (Screenshot via
Williamson County Schools likely to recommend extension of mask requirements in schools

According to Superintendent Jason Golden, staff is likely to recommend approving a mask mandate extension, citing a decline in cases since the mandates were approved.

Serrato's Steakhouse is slated to open soon in Franklin. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
See 5 businesses coming to Franklin; Bakehouse Wine & Spirits now open and more area news

Read the latest business and community news thus far in September from the Franklin area.

Owners Eric and Felour Shanklin opened the eatery in 2014. (Photos by Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pasta & Cream features fresh ingredients, unique recipes

Owners Eric and Felour Shanklin drew inspiration from their family for the menu when naming dishes—diners will find dishes like the Ivan ala Vodka and the Priscilla, each named for the couple’s children.

Wine & Design Franklin offers instructor-led painting session, including themes such as "Harry Potter." (Photos courtesy Wine & Design Franklin)
Wine & Design Franklin serves as creative space for parties, events

In addition to being able to choose from more than 6,000 different painting options, the studio also offers classes for themed paintings like fall landscapes or even Paint Your Pet classes.

Visit Franklin announced in September that tourism spending declined by more than 30% during 2020. (Courtesy Visit Franklin)
Williamson County sees drop in tourism for first time in 10 years

Tourism spending declined by more than 30% in 2020, according to Visit Franklin.

The boutique is now open in Franklin. (Courtesy CTGrace)
CTGrace now open in Franklin

The boutique is now open in downtown Franklin.

The city of Brentwood hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 10. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Brentwood breaks ground on new fire station

The new station is slated to be complete in fall 2022.

The new studio opened near Columbia Avenue. (Courtesy The Lash Lounge)
The Lash Lounge opens in Franklin; cities to honor 9/11 and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Franklin and Brentwood areas.

The Project SAFE grant would go to school districts and local education agencies that had funding withheld for enacting mask mandates. (courtesy Adobe Stock)
U.S. Department of Education approves grant funding for school districts facing state punishment for mask mandates

The Project SAFE grant would go to school districts and local education agencies that had funding withheld for enacting mask mandates.

The new studio opened near Columbia Avenue. (Courtesy The Lash Lounge)
The Lash Lounge now open in Franklin

The lash studio opened in Franklin in late August.